Samsung phones may be exploding now, but in the future they will have cutting-edge artificial intelligence and an ecosystem built around natural conversation that will transcend apps.
The South Korean multinational conglomerate has announced it will acquire Viv Labs, a San Jose startup that has become a big player in the exploding field of artificially intelligent digital assistants.
If the name Viv Labs is vaguely familiar, that might be because the company made quite a splash earlier this year when its founder, Dag Kittlaus, showed off a conversational interface so smart that it could fetch an Uber for six people, or order just the right flowers for his mother. Logically, he calls the interface Viv.
For Kittlaus, this type of smart, personal digital assistant is the logical evolution of touch interfaces and mobile applications. The assistant lives in the cloud and it is as ubiquitous as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It also taps into a massive new marketplace likely to produce just a few really big winners. (I’ll be impressed when it is smart enough to help me choose the right short iron on the golf course when the pin is 135 feet away and slightly downhill, without me asking first.)
|Regrouping from the failed Note 7 launch,
Samsung wants a winning A.I. assistant
You can understand the sense of urgency for Samsung. It is certainly one of the world’s leading technology companies, yet it has fallen well behind competitors in artificial intelligence. Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook (FB) and Alphabet (GOOG) are all spending billions on developing digital assistants and trying to foster their ecosystems. The lure of the Internet of Things and its treasure trove of data has only accelerated the push.
In addition to creating Apple’s Siri, Viv Labs founders developed revolutionary computer science that allows digital Viv to write its own code on the fly. This is valuable because it imposes a level of security against those looking to harm the system while allowing developers to build modules and bring services at a much faster clip.
Dr. Injong Rhee, Samsung’s executive vice president of software and services, told Reuters “Viv brings in a very unique technology to allow us to have an open system where any third-party service and content providers (can) add their services to our devices’ interfaces.”
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That falls in line with Viv Labs’ goals. In a TechCrunch interview Kittlaus said, “Having an open system is required to take it from today’s basic versions of what you see in the market and having people in a self-service way plug-in, in all the different markets around the world in all the different devices. Imagine how that affects the scale of what this assistant will do for you. … You are going to go from a few dozen capabilities to thousands, tens of thousands or more over the coming years.”
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Right now only Amazon’s Echo platform is truly open. Alphabet has the most advanced suite of cloud services and a clear lead in artificial intelligence. It even acquired API.AI, an open application-program interface network in September. However, like Apple, it has been reluctant to move quickly toward opening up its platform. Samsung has a chance to do something special with Viv.
Voice is the next major trend in computing. If the history of software platforms is any indication, users will quickly coalesce around just a few. Viv Labs puts Samsung in the game. Given the troubles it has had with exploding batteries, the competition should be welcomed by consumers and investors alike.