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AI Weekly: Bixby’s biggest challenge might be time

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On Wednesday, just a few months after its AI assistant Bixby made its debut, Samsung announced plans for a revamped version open to developers, with Viv Labs tech. Viv, from the creators of Apple’s Siri, was acquired by Samsung a year ago.

The glitz of the carefully crafted keynote presentation at the Samsung Developer Conference, delivered via screens the size of a convention center, had much wow factor, but questions from developers at sessions held later in the day made clear just how much ground Bixby needs to cover to catch up.

No date has been set for the release of the Project Ambiance dongle for quick Bixby integration into devices like TVs or speakers. Much was said about personalization at day one of its developer conference, but Samsung does not yet have plans to incorporate voice recognition for its devices like Google and Amazon have done.

And after a delayed Bixby Voice debut earlier this year, Samsung VP Brad Park said Bixby 2.0 is scheduled for release in Q3 or Q4 2018 for Family Hub refrigerators and Smart TVs. No date has been set for 2.0 in smartphones, a Samsung spokesperson told VentureBeat, but if they’re on a similar timeline, toss in a complicating factor or delay of some kind and it could take until 2019 before the public at large gets the Bixby 2.0 experience in a smartphone.

On top of all that, Samsung still has no smart speaker on the market with Bixby inside. One is reportedly in the works. But maybe Samsung doesn’t have to follow the same smart speaker path as its competitors since the company’s fleet of connected devices are already in homes around the world.

We also learned Wednesday that Samsung will incorporate Google ARCore to bring augmented reality to Bixby Vision, further enmeshing Google in Samsung products.

Samsung’s operating system is Google’s Android. Samsung’s AR: ARCore from Google. Unpack an S8, Samsung’s flagship phone, and it has a dedicated button for Bixby — but hard-press the home button and you get Google Assistant. Press the Bixby button or swipe left from the home screen and Bixby Home can give you a stream of personalized info, but guess what? The Google search bar at the bottom of the S8 home screen delivers similar personalized news and alerts.

Google’s clear edge and the fact that Samsung started from scratch is enough to make you wonder why Samsung is trying in the first place. Why not just adopt Google Assistant or strike a partnership deal like Microsoft and Amazon did this summer?

Samsung repeats the same mantra you hear from other makers of AI assistants: People don’t want to use different assistants everywhere. They want a seamless, ubiquitous experience with one assistant from the car to the office to the home.

As Viv Labs cofounder Adam Cheyer has said, there will only be one to two big winners in the age of voice computing. So what happens if Bixby doesn’t make the cut?

In the time it takes for 2.0 to come to market, we’re sure to see much progress from Bixby’s competitors. We’ll know more next year about just how far ahead or behind Viv Labs tech is compared to its rivals. Competition with Alexa and the like aside, today it seems Bixby’s biggest challenge may be time.

Thanks for reading,

Khari Johnson

AI staff writer

P.S. Please enjoy this video: “AI Eats the World at Singularity University Global Summit

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