Earlier today, Samsung officially announced Bixby, its newest attempt at the digital personal assistant. For those who are keeping track, this would officially be Samsung's second attempt. The company's S Voice has been around for many years now, but it never took off. Especially not in the way that Samsung would have liked.
So, Samsung's giving it another go, and this time it's attempting a different strategy. Instead of emulating what other digital personal assistants on the market are doing, including Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft's Cortana, Samsung wants its software to actually handle complex tasks directly related to apps.
Specifically, Bixby is designed to make it possible for any touch-based input method in an app to be accessed, and utilized, just by the user's voice. So, instead of having to tap a few different times to send a picture off your phone to your friend or family member, you'll be able to tell Bixby to do it for you.
Samsung is aiming to fix a different "problem" on smartphones with Bixby, and it seems like a promising first step.
There might be some points of hesitation, though. Specifically, Samsung isn't shy when it says that Bixby is going to be limited in scope when it launches on the Galaxy S8 a little later this year. Bixby's been on the workbench at Samsung for 18 months, and it will only cover a "subset" of Samsung's proprietary apps at launch. Third-party apps will get supported later this year by way of an SDK for developers, but of course that's up to developers to support or not.
This is only really an issue because first impressions are important for just about any feature tied to a smartphone. Users are quick to abandon features they don't feel they need or want, and if Bixby doesn't fit the bill right out of the gate, some users may abandon the feature altogether and never look back (I'm looking at you, early Siri users). That doesn't mean that Bixby has to do "everything" to start, but what it does do it has to do really well, so users feel like there's a strong jumping off point that will only get better with updates.
The second point is the physical button. Bixby is contextual, sort of like the essentially defunct Google On Tap. That means that users will be able to call up Bixby in an app, even if they're in the middle of a process, and the digital personal assistant will allegedly know what the user is doing, keep up with the command strings, and be able to hop in and help when called upon. That button makes it easy to access Bixby.
However, if the personal assistant isn't that great out of the box, and some users abandon the feature, that's a physical button on the side of their phone taking up real estate that they don't need or want. That's a big gamble to take on Samsung's part, so one has to hope it takes off in the right direction for them.
Honestly, I think Bixby sounds like a pretty exciting new feature, and if it works like Samsung wants it to, or hopes it will, I think it will be a feather in Samsung's cap moving forward. I also believe that this is the next logical step for the other major players in the digital personal assistant space. I wouldn't be surprised at all if later this year, for example, Apple announced that Siri was also able to do what Bixby does, but with even more app support right out of the box (and maybe even from some third-party apps). The same can be said for Google Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana.
Either way, I think Samsung has an interesting feature on the way for its Galaxy S8 (and other Samsung-branded products, eventually), so I'll be curious to see how it works when their new flagship smartphone launches.
What about you? From what you've heard about Bixby, do you think Samsung's onto something here? Or is this another S Voice waiting to happen? Let me know!