Samsung seems ready to enter the digital-assistant game.
According to Reuters, Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy 8 smartphone will feature a voice-activated artificial-intelligence app, similar to Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant. In October, Samsung acquired Viv, a firm founded by three creators of Siri who departed Apple a few years ago.
Viv’s creators argue that their platform has inherent advantages over rival A.I. platforms, including the capability to write and refine its own code in response to problems. This ‘dynamic program generation’ is potentially profound—provided it works as intended when Viv hits the market, and finds itself attempting to accurately wrangle the requests of millions of users. If it does work, Viv could prove dynamic in ways that Siri and other platforms, currently bound to sets of rigid rules, are not.
Here’s a live demo of Viv in action:
(Esquire has a nifty profile of Viv’s creators and their quest to build an artificial-intelligence system with human-like cognition. It’s well worth a read, especially the parts that describe how Viv could engage the back-ends of multiple online services at once, allowing users to, say, book an entire vacation simply by stating, “I want to go to Tokyo for a week in October.”)
As one of the largest Android device manufacturers, Samsung has a large enough user base to provide Viv with all the real-world data it needs, once the S8 arrives on store-shelves. Given how Samsung also produces everything from phones to home appliances (some of which explode), it’s not inconceivable that Viv could end up as the digital brain for a whole ecosystem of interconnected devices—rivaling Apple’s own attempts at home automation and the Internet of Things through HomeKit.
For developers and other tech professionals who are already trying to figure out how Siri and Google Assistant can best integrate with their products, Viv and Samsung could add another wrinkle to their development plans. Considering Samsung’s market-share, Viv will earn the instant consideration of anyone working in mobile, IoT, and related fields; the big question, at least at the outset, will be whether Samsung will open the platform up to third-party experimentation and development. It’s certainly something to watch out for.
For Samsung, Viv may also represent the best hope of the company to execute a reputation turnaround after it was forced to recall the Samsung Note 7, its most recent flagship device. Although the Note 7 boasted many top-line features, it also developed a reputation for bursting into flames. Samsung has a burning desire to solve the issue, but its researchers haven’t yet isolated the cause.
Such a turnaround, of course, hinges on whether Viv can stand out in a field crowded with increasingly strong competitors. In addition to Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, there’s also Microsoft’s Cortana. Other platforms will surely emerge within the next few years, as more tech firms embrace artificial intelligence as a way of making their products more useful.