Samsung Bixby is promising, but Siri has nothing to worry about

Samsung Bixby is promising, but Siri has nothing to worry about
The 5.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S8 (with blue screen) and the bigger 6.2-inch Samsung Galaxy S8+ (with purple screen)
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Bixby is no Siri killer.

One looks out on the world while the other looks in.

That is one difference between Samsung's Bixby digital assistant and Apple's Siri. The other is that Siri shows the polish of six-plus years of development and AI growth, while Bixby has all the earmarks of still-under-construction project.

While Siri is focused on the world of information and intelligence it can glean from outside sources, with a an increasing amount of internal control, Bixby is a navel-gazer, focused primarily on understanding everything you can do via touch on a Samsung Galaxy S8 (and S8+) and transforming it into something you can do via speech.

A hobbled version of Bixby launched with the Samsung Galaxy S8 in April. It was useful primarily for scanning in products and codes and not much else.

Over the past couple of weeks, however, Samsung has opened a more functional, listening, and speaking Bixby to a small group of Samsung Galaxy S8 owners. I'm in that group and now I've had the full (or should I say fuller?) Bixby experience.

In short, Samsung's digital assistant is, at times, inspiring, and, at others, painfully disappointing.

I expect that disappointment to fade over time, though, because, like most good artificial intelligence, Bixby is a learning system.

On device, it learns how I speak and, off device, takes anonymized intelligence from a growing number of users to improve its response and abilities.

Those abilities are focused almost entirely on accessing apps, functions, and intentions on the phone and, ultimately, every single smart Samsung device.

PHOTO: Samsung

Unlike other voice assistants that started on the phone and only slowly migrated to other products and platforms, Samsung's Bixby strategy is a comprehensive one with an omnipresent Bixby that follows your from one device to another.

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