Samsung's Bixby digital voice assistant has just launched alongside the Galaxy S8 and S8+ and already we have hints to expect it to replace S Voice on Samsung's Gear smartwatches, wearables and smart home devices.
When we asked a Samsung rep if Bixby is coming to the Gear smartwatches in future, he said: "Definitely, Bixby is the assistant that we're going to empower many other Samsung devices with - the watch, the TV, the fridge."
Still, that doesn't mean Bixby is a shoo-in for a Samsung Gear S4: "At this moment there's no specific roadmap to say when it will arrive [on watches]."
Bixby is Samsung's attempt to create a rival to Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, though there does seem to be some slight differences. Bixby will seemingly work primarily as a voice-based interface for app shortcuts, instead of just something you'll ask for weather updates.
Bixby will work in Korean from launch, US English from May and more languages - including British English - "over time". We got a few demos at a pre-Unpacked event. On the phone, it works with the context of your location and also what's on the screen so you can tell Bixby to make a photo album called London and it will know to use the selected photos you're looking at.
As for controlling apps, it will only work with selected native Samsung apps at first - the dialler, gallery etc. But when Bixby does come to a future Gear smartwatch, we'd expect Samsung to have made headway with getting big name third party apps on board too. This is the play Google is making for its voice services - accessing info and functions within third party apps. It's all about saving time, something that smartwatches are supposed to do.
"Confusion around activating a voice interface is a barrier we have removed to make it feel easier and more comfortable to give commands," said InJong Rhee, Samsung's executive vice president.
"Instead of taking multiple steps to make a call — turning on and unlocking the phone, looking for the phone application, clicking on the contact bar to search for the person that you're trying to call, and pressing the phone icon to start dialing — you will be able to do all these steps with one push of the Bixby button and a simple command."
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Though Samsung has now officially confirmed the assistant will arrive on the Galaxy S8, some questions still linger. Chiefly, just how much will Bixby remain a work in progress after release; Samsung itself described the launch as the "first step" before also indicating an SDK is in the works to open up things to third-party developers.
And, of course, the great unknown here is the work of Viv Labs, the AI company owned by the creators of Siri that Samsung acquired way back in October. While at the time it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that the technology would form the guts of the fresh assistant, what we know so far would indicate the full potential of Viv's smarts won't initially be involved.
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