Samsung has a new voice. And it has world-changing ambitions.
In the upcoming Galaxy S8, users will find an extra button on the left side of the phone, just below the volume controls. Pressing it will activate Bixby, Samsung’s new voice assistant. Once activated, Bixby will help you navigate what’s arguably the most sophisticated piece of technology you own — the smartphone in your hand.
If Samsung gets its wish, though, Bixby will eventually do much more than just help you order Lyfts or set up complex calendar appointments. The long-term vision is for Bixby to act as a kind of uber-interface for all of Samsung’s products: TVs, wearables, washing machines, even remote controls.
Samsung designed Bixby with a specific goal in mind, one that veers away from its fellow voice assistants — Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and the Google Assistant. Those platforms were generally built to help users quickly perform common tasks (“Remind me to buy milk”) and perform search queries (“What’s the capital of Brazil?”). Bixby, on the other hand, is all about making the phone itself easier to use, replicating the functions of many apps with voice commands.
Yes, Siri et al. already do that to a certain extent — you can easily set a reminder with your voice, for example — but the voice integration typically only handles the basics. The goal of Bixby is to voice-enable every single action in an app that you’d normally do via touch, starting with Samsung’s apps. So, not just “set a reminder to buy pickles at 6 p.m., but “Set a reminder on my Shopping List to buy pickles at 6 p.m. and make it repeat every week, then share the list with my wife.”
Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung Mobile and the architect behind Bixby, says the voice assistant is nothing short of an “interface revolution,” freeing users from hunting down hidden functionality within menus and hard-to-find screens.
“Bixby is an intelligent…