It is fair to say that Samsung’s smart assistant has been somewhat of a disappointment since it was launched earlier this year. Long delays in the release of Bixby were then compounded by issues ranging from launch problems to training troubles. A distinct lack of functions compared to its number one rival Alexa has also led many to ask: why bother?
But from day one, Samsung has been determined to make Bixby a roaring success. Samsung felt so strongly about pairing Bixby with the Galaxy S8 that it built a hardware button onto the device specifically for Bixby – before it was even ready. During the long delay, S8 customers created apps that turned the Bixby button into a general-purpose ‘convenience’ key – a button users can configure themselves – much to the annoyance of Samsung bosses.
And now in an attempt to boost Bixby’s brains, Samsung has acquired AI company Fluently. Similar to Gmail’s auto responder, Fluently’s chatbot AI currently reads incoming messages and offers appropriate reactions as a response. It operates both in English and Korean – ideal for Samsung – and has been used as a plug-in within messenger apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp. The acquisition of Fluently joins onto Samsung's 2016 buyout of US-based AI platform Viv, which was co-founded by the team that created Siri.
Whether or not it is able to bridge the gap between Bixby and Alexa remains to be seen. But it should go some way to helping iron out any issues users are currently experiencing. One thing is for sure, Samsung are not going to give up trying in a growing market where plenty of money is to be made. To give an idea of current and near-term market size, a snapshot forecast put out by Gartner suggests that VPA-enabled wireless speakers will generate around $3.52 billion in global revenue by 2021.