Samsung Electronics Co. is developing a voice-activated speaker powered by its digital assistant Bixby, according to people familiar with the matter, joining a proliferating arms race in tabletop devices.
One variable slowing Samsung’s progress is the postponed U.S. launch of the English-language version of Bixby, which would operate the speaker much as Alexa operates Amazon’s Echo device, according to people familiar with the matter. Bixby’s voice features were a key selling point for the world’s largest smartphone maker’s latest flagship model, the Galaxy S8, introduced April 21.
The company vowed the English-language Bixby would be ready by spring, but now Samsung internally believes those voice features are unlikely before the second half of July, one of the people said. The Galaxy S8 is Samsung’s first device to feature Bixby.
Previously, Martin reported that Bixby had been delayed because it was having difficulty understanding English. You might reasonably think that mastering English would be trivial for Bixby seeing as Samsung acquired the Viv virtual assistant — that amazing one built by ex-Siri engineers — but, apparently, Bixby doesn’t use any of Viv’s technology yet.