Samsung Shifts Gears to Embrace AI (Again), Putting Devices in the Backseat

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Samsung Shifts Gears to Embrace AI (Again), Putting Devices in the Backseat

Seven years ago, Samsung said it wanted to create “a corporate-wide AI voice system” powered by its acquisition of Viv Labs. The electronics maker had a strong foothold in the home, with many consumers owning at least a Samsung television, audio player, refrigerator, oven, or washer and dryer. A key component to its execution lay with Bixby, the AI assistant that first launched on the company’s Galaxy S8 smartphone. Combined with Samsung’s SmartThings platform, it’s easy to see how all the parts fit together like Voltron to form a connected ecosystem.

Despite its best efforts, Samsung has struggled to successfully attain this objective. Soon after Bixby’s debut, the company released an SDK, allowing developers to integrate their Internet of Things-powered apps with the AI assistant. It also provided financial incentives to attract builders, establishing its Q Fund to support AI-centric startups. Even so, Samsung has fallen behind Google, Amazon and others when it comes to artificial intelligence — at least publicly.

I’m not implying that Samsung hasn’t made any efforts in this domain. The company has incorporated AI features into its apps and specific device categories, including televisions. However, a unifying platform like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant hasn’t materialized, yet.

Samsung and AI, Take Two

In 2024, Samsung is poised for a notable shift with a renewed emphasis on its “AI for All” banner. “With the emergence of artificial intelligence, smarter, better experiences will redefine how we live,” Jong-Hee Han, Vice Chairman and CEO of the company’s Device eXperience Division, said at its CES keynote. “Samsung’s broad portfolio of powerful devices, along with the pursuit of open collaboration, will help bring AI and hyper-connectivity to all.”

Samsung Electronics shares at CES 2024 its vision for how AI will help people experience devices more intuitively and conveniently than ever before. Photo credit: Samsung
Samsung Electronics shares at CES 2024 its vision for how AI will help people experience devices more intuitively and conveniently than ever before. Photo credit: Samsung

While introducing numerous new appliances, televisions, laptops, and an updated robot, the focus on AI appeared to overshadow the new product lineup. It’s not that those announcements aren’t innovative — they are. Nevertheless, Samsung aimed to depict a scenario where consumers could engage seamlessly and intelligently with their homes, whether through what they’re watching, cooking with, or experiencing.

Once more, the foundation of this endeavor relies on SmartThings and Bixby. Will Samsung finally be able to realize its vision of a corporate-wide AI system? This time around, the company is betting on spatial AI, technology allowing devices to understand the living space and user routines. In other words, creating a digital floor plan using all your connected devices will enable SmartThings to detect activities such as falls and pet movements.

Samsung debuts Project Ambience, a prototype dongle that turns any device into a smart object. Photo credit: Samsung
Samsung debuts Project Ambience, a prototype dongle that turns any device into a smart object. Photo credit: Samsung

SmartThings serves as the hub connecting all smart devices and appliances to map out your home, with Samsung’s Bixby being the user interface.

Key technologies like Multi Device Wakeup combined with a shared communication protocol, enable Bixby to listen to commands with all the devices in a room but then only perform the requested action on the most relevant device. So if a user is in the kitchen watching a recipe video on their Family Hub, and they can call out, “Hey, Bixby! Play music!” At that point, music will play from the user’s smart speaker, but the recipe video will continue to play on the Family Hub, uninterrupted.

Expanding AI on Home and Mobile: Are the Pieces All There?

Samsung is not solely focusing its efforts on the home; it is also incorporating a range of AI-powered features into its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S24. These enhancements, including improved ray tracing performance, Chat Assist, real-time two-way translation, and note generation, aim to streamline the user experience, minimizing additional tasks for device owners and allowing them to immerse themselves in life effortlessly.

To that end, it appears the major components are in place for Samsung to finally have a cohesive ecosystem. Unfortunately, with a dependency on device turnover, widespread adoption is a limiting factor. Even still, Samsung’s focus on integrating AI into both its home appliances and flagship smartphones demonstrates its commitment to creating a seamless and intelligent user experience. It’s great to see a renewed focus by this electronics maker to try and build a solid communication platform for connected devices.

Let’s hope it won’t take another seven years to kickstart things once again.

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