Bixby Voice goes live in Korea on the Galaxy S8 as Samsung eyes U.S. launch next

Bixby coming to the States 'later this spring.'

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones
Adam Patrick Murray

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The Galaxy S8 is shipping all over the world, people are raving about it, and it’s breaking all sorts of sales records. But it’s still not complete. Samsung’s AI assistant Bixby wasn’t quite ready to launch when the Galaxy S8 did, so Samsung held back its biggest feature, voice commands, with a vague promise that it will launch “later this spring.”

But we could be getting to know Bixby sooner than we think. Samsung has launched the voice component of Bixby in its home country of South Korea, a clear signal that the company is hard at work at perfecting its voice recognition engine. The plan has always been for Korean language support to launch first followed by English. However, a Wall Street Journal report said Samsung was hoping to go live with Bixby Voice by the end of May.

Bixby is a massive undertaking for Samsung that goes well beyond the Galaxy S8. More than a competitor to Google Assistant and Siri, Bixby aims to be “a new way to interact with your phone,” combining voice, touch, and context to create a system that helps you complete tasks and “move seamlessly between modes of interaction.” Samsung has gone as far as building a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the S8.

However, the parts of Bixby we have seen haven’t exactly blown us away. Bixby Vision, which uses the S8’s camera to scan items and text to deliver shopping and translation results works well enough, but it remains to be seen how useful it will be. The other feature that is already live, Bixby Home, is essentially a redesigned version of Google Now.

But without voice, it’s hard to get a full picture of what Bixby will be. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can try it out for ourselves.

Why this matters: Samsung is betting big on Bixby. Not only is it one of the marquee features of the Galaxy S8, it also is going to be the brains behind the company’s entire line of smart products, from refrigerators to light bulbs. But if Google Assistant and Siri have taught us anything, it’s that AI is hard, and the only way to improve it is to get feedback from users in the real world. The sooner Samsung can push Bixby’s voice control to English users in the U.S., the quicker it will be able to catch up.

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