Samsung’s Bixby Voice Assistant Rolls Out to U.S. Phones After Delay

(The Washington Post) —
Sriram Thodla, senior director of services and new business at Samsung, speaks about the new voice agent named ‘Bixby’ that is featured on the new Samsung Galaxy S8 during a launch event in March in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Samsung is finally rolling out the English-language version of its Bixby voice assistant to U.S. phones, the company said Wednesday.

Samsung’s take on the voice assistant — and its bid to compete with other companies’ offerings including Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana — was central to its promotional pitch when the Galaxy S8 and S8+ were first announced. The company bragged that Bixby would be able to handle more complex tasks than other assistants and that users would be able to control a wide variety of apps with their voices.

But when the phones hit U.S. store shelves in April, they rolled out without its voice features. (Bixby also has some camera-based features that launched on time with the phone.)

Samsung said that the delay was due to Bixby’s inability to grasp the English language, which is a pretty big problem for software that’s supposed to be able to understand conversational commands.

A Wednesday news release from Samsung indicates that it’s solved those problems and that Bixby will be able to do some fairly complicated tasks.

Users can, Samsung said, ask Bixby to do things such as “find photos I took in Spain and create an album called ‘Vacation.'”

As good voice control becomes a major point of competition among tech firms, Samsung is under some pressure to show that Bixby can match or even go beyond existing voice assistants.

But it will have to overcome the perception that Bixby was dead on arrival — or, rather, on its lack of arrival when it launched with the phone. Galaxy S8 and S8+ users have had their phones for months now, and those excited about using a voice assistant on their phones could use Google Assistant from the start.

Galaxy S8 and S8+ users in the United States and South Korea can start using the assistant’s full English-language capabilities starting Wednesday, as soon as they download an update to the Bixby app on their phones.

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