Samsung’s “Bixby” assistant still can’t grasp English, is delayed again

Enlarge / The hardware Bixby button.

Ron Amadeo

When Samsung announced its new flagship, the Galaxy S8, one of the headline features was Samsung’s new “Bixby” assistant. This voice assistant is supposed to be Samsung’s answer to Siri, the Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, but when it came time to actually launch the Galaxy S8 in the US, Bixby’s voice functionality was nowhere to be found. The Wall Street Journal broke the news that the English-language version of Bixby was delayed to the end of May, but now that May is over, the WSJ is back to say the voice assistant is again delayed in the US until “at least late June.

The report says an English-language version of Bixby is “weeks away from being finished” due to the assistant “struggling to comprehend English syntax and grammar.” Samsung’s first language of Korean has apparently been easier for Bixby to master, as the assistant launched in South Korea alongside the Galaxy S8.

Bixby isn’t just a mere software feature on the Galaxy S8. The device was designed with Bixby in mind, and it sports a side hardware button specifically for launching the assistant. Samsung has also hurt the Galaxy S8’s functionality as a form of protectionism for the unfinished Bixby—it blocked users from remapping the Bixby button and turning it into a general-purpose “convenience key,” and it crippled the competing Google Assistant so it can’t work when the Galaxy S8’s screen is off.

Samsung’s voice-command prowess should improve in the future. Samsung acquired promising a voice assistant company called “Viv” in October, and it has presumably been hard at work building some kind of voice assistant inside Samsung. According to the WSJ, that Viv-derived Assistant isn’t Bixby, which doesn’t use any of the Viv technology that Samsung acquired. Bixby is reportedly based on Samsung’s older “S-Voice” technology that the company shipped in devices like the Galaxy S7.

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For now, Galaxy S8 users will have to settle for the Bixby button launching nothing more than a contextual card interface. We’ll check back next month.

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