Bixby isn't a search engine. It's the Galaxy S8's live-in assistant.
Virtual assistants are all the rage, and with the success of services like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, it's no surprise that other companies want a go at it, too. Samsung's trying its hand in the AI space with the launch of Bixby, the virtual assistant that comes baked in the Galaxy S8 and S8+.
Unlike the competition, Bixby isn't a search engine. It's an assistant that's there to help you navigate through the phone itself. Samsung's invested quite a few resources into Bixby and its capabilities, and plans to make it a major part of the Galaxy S8's marketing story. If you're wondering what's in store, here's what we learned about Bixby from our brief time with it on Samsung's new flagship smartphone.
What Bixby aims to do
Earlier this month, Samsung made a point to lay out what Bixby is and how it will live alongside the rest of the virtual assistants making headway in the tech world. Bixby was heralded as a "conceptually new philosophy to the problem [of virtual interaction]," Samsung wrote. "It is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us."
"A conceptually new philosophy to the problem of virtual interaction."
That's a powerful statement, but that's exactly Bixby's aim: to learn what you like to do with your smartphone, and then adapt itself to cater to those particular actions. It's not a search engine like Google Assistant; it is an assistant, and it can navigate around your smartphone the way that you normally would with your own fingertips. Bixby will support almost every task you ask it to do, like cropping a photo, applying a filter, or sharing it with your favorite social network. Eventually, you'll be able to talk Bixby through your process without looking at the screen at all.
Bixby is also supposed to complete tasks, even if you don't shout out the entire command. The idea is that as it's learning what you do with your device, it's also learning how to stay three steps ahead in anticipating what's next. And if it doesn't understand everything that you asked, it can get you most of the way there instead of failing and asking you to try again.
What we've seen it do
Bixby's primary method of contact requires you to press and hold the physical "Bixby button," which resides on the left side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ — essentially, your own "push to talk" for artificial intelligence. Samsung did say that Bixby would work with hot word detection, but most of the devices laid out for our demonstration were offline. Regardless, if you don't feel like drawing attention to yourself by shouting out "BIXBY!" in the middle of the grocery store, that's what the hardware button is for.
If you don't feel like shouting out "Bixby!", that's what the hardware button is for.
Bixby also offers its own live feed of sorts, akin to Google Now. It's a bit redundant alongside Google's offerings, though it does sort of lay out the kind of data it's aggregating on you. You can check in on things by scrolling to the left-most home screen of Samsung's launcher like you would on the Pixel Launcher. It's not entirely clear how Bixby pulls in all the information — whether it's hooking into apps, or whether it's only limited to the apps that have opted in — but we do know it looks at location data to find the context of where you are, to offer you actions based on whether you're at home or at work.
When is it available?
There is quite a bit of nuance behind Samsung's Bixby. We'll be curious to see how it fares against Google Assistant in the long run — particularly after millions of Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones are sold and Bixby gets put to use.
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