Samsung’s latest flagships, the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+, managed to grab everyone’s attention with their slew of new additions and features. From the curved display to the lack of bezels, from the refreshed specifications to the improved software experience– the Galaxy S8 had a lot of positives going in its favor.
One feature though invited reactions against what Samsung was expecting and hoping for. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the first Samsung smartphones to feature Samsung’s Bixby virtual assistant. Samsung had high hopes for Bixby, so much that it incorporated a dedicated (fixed and officially non-remappable) hardware button on the devices solely to quick launch Bixby.
Unfortunately, when consumers got their hands on Galaxy S8 devices, they received only a shadow of the Bixby functionality that was promised to them in Samsung’s keynote. Bixby lacked Voice functionality in the English language on launch, with the hardware key being relegated to opening a glorified feed of suggestions, weather data and social media trends. What was to be a defining aspect of the S8 user experience simply did not materialize.
A new report originating from Korea mentions that the absence of English voice functionality on Bixby is due to lack of accumulated big data with Samsung. Big data is said to be the key to deep learning technology which learns and evolves the more users use it. Since Samsung is jumping late in the virtual assistant race, it lacks the competitive edge that other competitors like Google, Amazon and Apple have accumulated and honed over time. As a result, the English version of Bixby has been delayed.
“Developing Bixby in other languages is taking more time than we expected mainly because of the lack of the accumulation of big data.”
Samsung has already launched a test preview version of Bixby for some users in the US, but the report mentions that the preview has received mixed feedback. Many early users are reporting unsatisfactory performance in Bixby’s ability to respond to requests and questions.
Apart from the lack of accumulated big data to feed on, Samsung is also facing other challenges in developing the English version of Bixby. Geographical and language barriers are slowing down progress as engineers in the US who are working on the English version have to frequently communicate reports and wait on the management in Korea to respond. This adds on to the difficulty of developing the English version as compared to the Korean version.
Interestingly, the report also mentions that Samsung’s AI acquisition, Viv Labs, has not yet been put into complete use. Viv Lab’s AI technology has not yet been applied into Bixby, and will be used later when Bixby becomes more complete. But with the challenges currently faced by Samsung, one can only wonder when that will happen.