A smartphone isn't really a smartphone these days unless it has a personal assistant to call its very own. With Google unveiling new Pixel phones equipped with the Google Assistant and Apple updating iOS 10 to add to Siri's powers, Samsung is now stepping up its assistant game by snapping up an up-and-coming artificial intelligence platform.
And it's one developed by the original creators of Siri.
Samsung said today (Oct. 5) that it's buying Viv, an AI platform that the electronics giant intends to use as the basis for an AI-based open ecosystem across its devices and services. In a press release announcing the purchase, Samsung said Viv would continue to operate independently under the team that also created Siri, which is now integrated into Apple's iOS and macOS operating systems.
Viv started getting buzz earlier this year as a would-be Siri competitor not only because of its founders' resumés, but also because it promises to be a more open platform for connecting with outside apps and services. Viv's other major selling point is its ease of use. Viv's creators are designing the AI agent to be more conversational, giving it the ability to handle multiple requests at once.
Samsung currently has a voice-powered assistant of sorts on some of its devices. S Voice lets you operate phones like the Galaxy S7 or Note 7 with just your voice, dialing contacts and dictating text messages. But its powers are far short of what you can do with assistants like the ones from Google, Apple and Microsoft.
It sounds Viv is going to give Samsung the opportunity to change that. In announcing the purchase, Samsung says Viv will help it simplify user interfaces and offer up appropriate suggestions and recommendations based on context — which sounds an awful lot like what Apple and Google are doing with their assistants on mobile devices. Samsung also talked about Viv's potential to integrate with its other products, including wearables and home appliances.
We've got a ways to go before we see how Viv stacks up against other voice-driven assistants, since the platform is still in development. But it's clear Samsung has big plans.
In an interview with Recode, Injong Rhee, Samsung's chief technology officer, promised that Samsung's investments in AI would be evident in next year's flagship Galaxy phones. Recode also reports that Samsung hopes to add the technology into television and other connected devices.