On Monday, ahead of the launch for Samsung’s Galaxy S8 later this month, the company unveiled its new digital assistant, Bixby, which will be present with the flagship phone at launch and will later roll out to other products.

Announced via press release, Bixby is an artificial intelligence (AI)-based interface that Samsung said was designed to be fundamentally different from other assistants on the market. In the release, Samsung noted that Bixby was developed with the philosophy of “instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.”

Another part of the approach to Bixby, the release said, was that the interface should be intuitive, and shouldn’t require additional training to operate if more skills are added. According to the release, there are three distinct areas where Bixby shines: Completeness, context awareness, and cognitive tolerance.

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In terms of completeness, when Bixby is integrated with another application, it will be able to perform any task available through the application, the release said. So, with a Bixby-enabled app, any task you could perform by touch, you could also perform by voice. Some other digital assistants only have access to certain tasks.

While working in an app that is Bixby-enabled, the context awareness of the assistant will help it to understand what you’re doing, and to be able to jump in and assist at any point, the release said. While getting work done, users can use either voice or touch to utilize Bixby’s features, without having to start a task over again.

Additionally, the cognitive tolerance of Bixby allows users to use incomplete voice commands, if they have forgotten the exact wording, and it will be able to complete the task “to the best of its knowledge,” the release said. Then, if needed, it will ask the user to provide more information so it can finish its work.

Samsung will also be including a dedicated Bixby button on the side of its “next device,” that it said it believes will remove friction and clarify the process by which a user will call up the assistant. Samsung didn’t explicitly say in the press release if the Galaxy S8 would be that next device, but it did note that some Bixby-enabled applications will be preinstalled on the Galaxy S8, and the company is planning on releasing an SDK so more apps can work with the assistant. After it comes to Samsung’s smartphones, the release said, it will eventually be available on the company’s appliances as well.

In October 2016, Samsung acquired Viv Labs, whose founder was the creator of Siri, and speculation began that the company was working on an AI assistant to compete against the likes of Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Later that year, it was reported that the company was planning on integrating the assistant into its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S8.

Now, with Bixby, Samsung has an AI assistant that it will likely take it head-to-head against Google Assistant. The move could create some tension, as Samsung has been one of the leading Android manufacturers for some time, but with the further commoditization of hardware, smartphone vendors that want to secure their future must be making big bets on AI.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Samsung just announced Bixby, a new AI-based assistant that will likely debut on its Galaxy S8 smartphone later this month.
  2. Completeness, context awareness, and cognitive tolerance are the three pillars of Bixby, which Samsung said make it a completely new kind of assistant.
  3. The launch of Bixby will likely create competition with Google Assistant, but AI is increasing becoming a necessary investment for all mobile companies.