Siri has some new competition: Samsung recently announced that it will introduce an AI digital assistant service in its upcoming Galaxy S8 phone line, in a move to win back customers after the Galaxy Note7 disaster.
The news, first reported by Reuters, is not a surprise: Samsung acquired Viv Labs Inc., operated by Siri co-creator Dag Kittlaus, in October. Viv Labs Inc.'s AI platform, Viv, will be integrated into the next line of Samsung smartphones, "and expand voice-assistant services to home appliances and wearable technology devices," Reuters reported.
A prototype of the Galaxy S8 handset includes a button on the side of the phone that users can tap to interact with Viv, according to sources quoted in the Wall Street Journal. However, this design is not final and could be altered before its release in 2017, the sources stated.
The integration of Viv marks Samsung's renewed entry into the virtual assistant realm, alongside players Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon, Cortana from Microsoft, and Google Assistant. Samsung's current virtual assistant service, the S Voice, was introduced in the Galaxy S3 in 2012, but it has not been significantly updated since.
Samsung is likely trying to improve its reputation after reports of the Note7's batteries igniting while charging led to two recalls. The company stopped sales and production of the phones in October.
On Friday, Samsung announced that nearly 85% of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices in the US had been replaced. The majority of customers opted to receive another Samsung smartphone, the company noted.
For those who have not turned in their Note7, Samsung will roll out a software update "in the coming days" that will cap the battery at 60%. Note7 users will also receive a pop-up notification every time they charge, reboot, or turn on the screen of the device, further encouraging them to return the phones. In recent weeks, the company issued a similar update in Europe, South Korea, Australia, and other markets as well.
In the wake of the Note7 recall, Samsung's third quarter profits dropped 96%, to $88 million. "It's a necessity for Samsung to go this route," in order to stay competitive in the mobile arena, said Jacob Sharony, principal consultant at Mobius Consulting.
Samsung's integration of Viv also marks a new move for the company in terms of the Internet of Things (IoT). Viv's technology is an open platform that allows third-party developers to create services. As noted on ZDNet, Viv will be able to make services that integrate into different domains.
In this way, Samsung has a competitive advantage for IoT: While Apple and Google might make smartphones with AI assistants, Samsung has the opportunity to embed its assistant into its line of home and business appliances, Sharony said.
"Imagine one day, when Samsung links everything—how nice would it be if you could talk to the Galaxy and ask about what's inside the refrigerator?" Sharony said. In the future, we will likely see these assistants linked to be able to talk to each other, instead of just to humans, Sharony said.
"We're just at the beginning," Sharony said.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Samsung recently announced that it will introduce an AI digital assistant service, Viv, in its upcoming Galaxy S8 phone line, to be released in 2017.
- The move is meant to improve the company's reputation after the Galaxy Note7 debacle, and differentiate it from its competitors.
- Samsung's Viv will join a growing market of AI assistants that includes Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant.
- US government officially recalls Samsung Galaxy Note7 over battery concerns (TechRepublic)
- Samsung cuts profit forecast by $2.3 billion after Galaxy Note 7 saga(ZDNet)
- Galaxy Note 7, RIP. Samsung, you've got to rebuild the trust (CNET)
- Who's benefitting from the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 meltdown? (ZDNet)
- Samsung's crazy return kit for the Galaxy Note 7 may scare you (CNET)
Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.