If you follow any tech news, you’ve seen announcements in the past week coming out of Samsung around their Galaxy S8 launch. One of the most intriguing parts of the Samsung event was the news around Bixby, Samsung’s AI assistant and answer to Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant. In some ways, it competes with the Amazon Echo too – Bixby is both a voice assistant and a smart home controller as well as an augmented reality camera.
Bixby comes with a range of new functions baked into the Galaxy S8, many of which have some interesting implications in the smart kitchen.
First, Bixby actually gives you virtual control over apps on your phone with your voice. At the moment, that functionality is extended only to Samsung apps – the phone, messaging, email, camera and video, etc – but it opens up the possibility for mobile apps to be “Bixby” friendly. Adding voice to apps that help you in your kitchen could be a unique way to get voice control without a standalone device that sits on your countertop. A recipe app that Bixby could read you the instructions step-by-step would be a quick way to get guided cooking without an extra gadget or device.
The Verge got an up close look at another Bixby feature – augmented reality via the S8’s camera. Point the camera at an object and Bixby recognizes what it is you’re both looking at and identifies it. Though not a new concept (Google Googles, Amazon Flow), it seems like a fairly flawless execution and Samsung is supposedly in talks with folks like Amazon, making it an interesting AR solution for things like grocery shopping. Other interesting applications include a partnership with Vivino that gives you tasting notes when you scan a bottle of wine.
Finally, there’s Bixby Home, which is Samsung’s answer to aggregating your home’s smart devices and controlling them via voice. Similar to the Echo or Google Home, with the difference again being the in phone location as opposed to an external device. If you could tell your phone, which might be in your kitchen as you follow a recipe app, to preheat the oven as you finish mixing cupcake batter, that might be useful. But do users typically carry around their phones from room to room at home? The benefit of an Echo or Google Home is the convenience – walk into a room, issue a command.
It seems like Bixby has some potential benefits, but it remains to be seen if it will work as promised. CNET had some fairly buggy experiences with Bixby though and they point out that Samsung isn’t even committed to putting Bixby on the S8 quite yet. It could appear as a software update later in the year. There are also other AI and machine learning technologies developing in the kitchen that might make a voice assistant on your phone irrelevant in the future. After all, the smartphone is just another pane of glass where information can be consumed and controlled – artificial intelligence can be baked into just about anything.
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