When Samsung launched its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ flagship smartphones last year, the chaebol also introduced the world to Bixby, its homegrown digital virtual assistant. With Bixby, Samsung officially jumped into the fiercely-contested space of AI-powered assistants, a space dominated by the likes of Google’s Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
It’s been a little over 15 months since then, and Samsung continues to refine Bixby bit by bit, trying to make it a digital assistant that can rival (and perhaps, even beat) other assistants, like the above-mentioned Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
During Bixby’s launch, Samsung had made it amply clear that it has big plans for the new digital assistant. If you want proof, look no further than the Galaxy S8 duo, Galaxy Note 8, and their respective successors, all of which come with a dedicated hardware button to summon Bixby, a button that cannot be remapped to do anything else.
However, even after all that, Bixby hasn’t gotten the traction that Samsung hoped it would. Even after the announcement of the assistant’s second major version last year and the push to a whole bunch of connected home appliances like refrigerators and smart TVs, Samsung’s ambitious virtual assistant continues to trail the competition.
Now that its own efforts haven’t succeeded much, Samsung is turning to external sources to give Bixby a much-needed edge.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Samsung is holding an event in San Francisco, California next week, where it will fully open up Bixby to third-party app developers. The report further mentions that during the event, Samsung will outline how developers can create specific functions for Bixby. Likely to be called ‘capsules’, these functions are likely to be similar in functionality to Amazon Alexa’s ‘skills’, and will allow Bixby to be used for anything from ordering pizza to calling up a cab.
In today’s world, where data is the supreme commodity, AI-based digital assistants are becoming extremely important for technology corporations. This is why even smaller players like Xiaomi are coming up with their own virtual assistants (Xiao AI), hoping to tie consumers into a hardware-software ecosystem that’s completely controlled by them (similar to Apple’s iPhones and iOS). Therefore, Samsung’s decision to continue focusing its efforts in improving Bixby and opening it up for third-party development, makes perfect sense.
Watch: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 First Look
However, the chaebol needs to realize that to make Bixby something that would make Siri and Assistant tremble in their feet, Samsung will have to put in a lot more efforts into its virtual assistant. Until that happens, Bixby will continue to be a non-option for most users, and they’ll keep on searching for ways to remap that hardware button to do other (hopefully, more useful) things.