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What is Samsung's Bixby AI and how will it take on Alexa, Cortana and Google?

The Bixby AI by Samsung is here to challenge Amazon's Alexa, Cortana and Google's virtual assistant for a space in your smart home. But what is Bixby, how does it work and how does Bixby compare to Alexa and the rest of its rivals?

The age of virtual assistants is here and artificially intelligent bot-butlers are the new way to force our connected gadgets do our bidding. From Amazon’s voice controlled Alexa to Microsoft’s Cortana and the Google Assistant - they’re all smart, exist to serve your needs and actually work well. So it was inevitable that Samsung was going to launch its own smart home AI eventually, in the form of Bixby.

However, Bixby isn’t just a simple competitor when it comes to virtual assistants. Samsung's effort could actually be the best of the lot.

Bixby will make its appearance on many of Samsung's own devices, from mobile gadgets such as phones and tablets to home accessories like TVs and speakers. But what makes it so special?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Samsung’s Bixby AI and just why everyone is getting so excited.

Read next: What is a smart home and how do I get mine set up?

What is Samsung’s Bixby AI?

Samsung has had some software hits and misses over the years, to be perfectly honest. But at least the Korean giant isn't one to shy away from trying, even if a lot of its software is often rarely opened on devices. That might be why Samsung has wisely taken a little help with Bixby.

Samsung bought artificial intelligence company Viv back in 2016, a company started by the co-creator of Apple’s Siri. In fact, Dag Kittlaus gave birth to Viv because he thought Siri could be so much better than what Apple imagined. The result was a super advanced voice recognition and understanding system that could decipher complex commands - allowing users to talk naturally and yet still be understood.

Samsung’s Bixby AI is built on that already smart system, meaning you can expect a really capable smart assistant that can follow normal commands intelligently.

Read next: How to get Amazon Alexa on any phone

When is the Bixby launch date?

Samsung has confirmed it will unleash its new artificially intelligent Bixby assistant at the launch of its Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus flagship phones. These devices will be unveiled on March 29 here in the UK, as well as worldwide. And if web rumours are on the money, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are likely to go on sale on April 21, in the US at least.

The Bixby AI is designed to work across multiple Samsung devices, so expect the AI to begin to roll out to other gadgets like tablets, laptops, speakers, TVs, home appliances and more soon.

What does Samsung Bixby actually do?

When it comes to the Galaxy S8 smartphone, there will be a dedicated Bixby button to activate Samsung's assistant and put it into 'listening mode'. This shows just how committed Samsung is to making Bixby a central part of interacting with its devices.

So rather than unlocking your phone and then swiping and poking to the feature you require, you will simply be able to tap that Bixby button and say what you want to do. Making a call, sending a message, playing music - it should all be quick and easy thanks to the AI.

The key here is that Bixby will work with a wide variety of compatible apps, providing deep functionality. That means you’ll be able to do everything within the app that you’d normally do with touch, only using your voice.

Bixby is also contextual, meaning it will be smart enough to understand what you mean based on what you’re doing.

For example, if you ask Bixby to send your wife flowers for her birthday, it should know who your wife is, find her stored address and birthday and then open a flower store website or app to finish the job - all from that one simple command.

Theoretically that's the case anyway. How smart Bixby AI actually is in terms of finding information from multiple sources and using apps outside of the US remains to be seen.

Samsung Bixby will be easier to use than Amazon Alexa

One of the key differences with Samsung’s Bixby over Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana is its cognitive tolerance. This is fancy speak for the simple ability to understand you better.

With a lot of virtual assistants, if you don’t word the request just right, you’ll have to start again with a fresh new attempt. Bixby, however, will carefully analyse the words you’ve said and try and determine what you need. If it's struggling, the AI will ask for more details to understand your intent and carry out the request. Basically, these interactions will be more like a conversation with a real person.

Samsung's inclusion of that dedicated Bixby button should also help to make tasks even simpler. That said, Google Assistant can now be accessed from the lock screen with the “OK Google” activation phrase if you turn it on. But of course that means your phone is always listening, resulting in battery drain (and the usual paranoid web outrage).

Samsung Bixby will control your whole home

Samsung has revealed it has big plans for the future of Bixby and is building future devices around that voice control system. As a result, Sammy plans to release an SDK to developers so anyone can integrate full voice control into their apps.

Samsung has explicitly said that it plans to offer Bixby voice controls in all of its appliances. The idea is that your entire smart home can be controlled with voice alone.

Imagine telling your TV to get the oven pre-heated while you’re in the lounge, or turning on the lights at home from the car on the driveway. This is the basic vision for now, but in the near future everything could be possible using voice controls alone. Finally, the “Computer” voice command system Star Trek envisaged all those years ago is about to become a reality.

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