Talking points: Samsung NEXT plans to make voice assistants more natural through AI

At SXSW, Brendon Kim, Managing Director of Samsung NEXT, explains how AI will power more natural voice communication through digital assistants like Bixby.

How Samsung NEXT plans to make voice assistants more natural through AI

AI will be the key to powering more natural voice communication with digital assistants like Bixby, according to Samsung. TechRepublic's Teena Maddox spoke with Brendon Kim, Managing Director and Head of Investments for Samsung NEXT, at SXSW about AI, voice control and how it will affect the future of products.

"It's been really interesting to see voice become a new way of interacting with devices," says Kim. "It's a very natural progression. It's still very early for voice. With Alexa and Google's Voice Assistant, it's interesting to see how consumers interact with devices in a new way. It's still a little stilted. You have to ask a question in a certain way. Every time you speak a sentence, you have to say, 'Alexa,' so it's not a very natural way of communicating quite yet. That's where AI can come in.

SEE: Google Assistant: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

As AI progresses, you'll see a more natural type of communication where you and I can speak in the same way to machines the way we speak with in conversation. That's the next leap voice interfaces need to make. At Samsung, we're working on that with our Bixby Assistant, but it needs to be a more natural flow of communication without having to be scripted or be patterned in a certain way."

What should manufacturers do? Kim posits, "The key here is being natural in communication. If you don't ask a question in a certain way, it can get very frustrating. When my kids interact with voice assistants, they get very frustrated because it's unnatural. When you ask, 'What's the temperature today?' it won't give you an answer. You have to say, "Bixby," or "Alexa," or "Hello, Google," first, and then if it comes back with the wrong answer, again, you have to say the same sentence over again, maybe in a different way, so that the machine understands it.

We don't do that as humans. We know the context around which we're speaking. We know who we're speaking to and we know that we are directing our conversation to a certain person, so you don't have to be stilted about the language that you use. When we look at our devices, we want a very natural interaction with our devices. We don't want that stilted interaction."

Naturally, the issue of timeline is essential and Kim acknowledges its importance, but adds, "we're continuing to see advances in AI and in natural language processing. There won't be a sudden switch. It'll be a progression, an evolution rather than a revolution. I suspect if we look back at our devices five years from now, we'll wonder, 'Wow. Why did we do it that way?";

So hopefully in the next two, three, four years, we'll continue to see a lot of progression in the technology."

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Brendon Kim, Managing Director and Head of Investments, Samsung NEXT

Brendon Kim, Managing Director and Head of Investments, Samsung NEXT

Teena Maddox/TechRepublic