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Can Samsung Digital Assistant Bixby Find Its Voice?

The competition among voice-activated assistants is only just beginning.

Samsung’s voice-activated mobile assistant, Bixby, is the newest kid on the Connected Intelligence agent block — so new, the Galaxy S8 feature isn’t yet available in the U.S. (or in an English language version, for that matter).

But, with the relatively established brands of the voice-activated assistant landscape like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple’s Siri already vying to the be artificial intelligence concierge through consumer’s smart home speaker systems, Samsung clearly feels it can’t afford to wait any longer.

In a sense, Samsung’s plan is far from a sudden game of catch-up. After all, the company has been at the forefront of making the “smart refrigerator” a mainstream appliance that updates the kitchen as the connected home’s hub.

Still, the company’s other efforts in voice-activated digital assistants have been plagued by delays. Samsung’s smart speaker project, dubbed “Vega,” has actually been in the works for a year, according to a WSJ piece, citing unidentified sources.

Samsung initially hoped to have Bixby’s English-language features ready last Spring, when the S8 was released. The current target for that mobile assistant enhancement is by the end of July, a Samsung rep tells the WSJ. (Note: at least one reader tells us that his Galaxy S8 with Bixby understands his English-word voice commands.)

The Outlook For Voice-Activation

As Samsung looks to its smart speaker for the home, it has clear challenges and advantages.

Parks Associates has noted that adoption of digital voice-activated assistants more than doubled in Q1 as 76 percent of consumers having used spoken commands to their connected device, the timing could hardly be better for Apple’s entry into the space currently commanded by Amazon and Google.

According to Forrester, 33 percent of U.S. online adults say they use intelligent agents like Google Now or Cortana, Forrester notes.

In its outlook for the connected intelligence market in 2017, eMarketer projects that 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month for sudden rise of 128.9 percent over last year.

Elsewhere, the native digital assistant installed base is set to exceed 7.5 billion active devices by 2021, which is more than the world population, according to a report by British consultancy Ovum.

At the moment, eMarketer has Amazon’s Echo device with a vast lead amounting to a 70.6 percent share of users in that space. Google Home, which only launched last October, will have to catch up as it has just 23.8 percent of the market.

Meanwhile, Apple and Siri remain wild cards in the space, as its Homepod smart speakers won’t be shipped until December.

So with all that in mind, Samsung certainly has time to catch-up to the current entrants in the race for the connected home. But if its Bixby features wind up with more delays, Samsung, which has had to endure a year of separate controversies, could have a tougher time having its voice-activation being heard by the marketplace.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.