Why Samsung’s Bixby Isn’t a Siri Killer — And Might Never Be

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Bixby has big dreams. Samsung’s ambitions for its new digital voice assistant are certainly far-reaching, and it has the potential to reach those goals. But, in the meantime, it’s safe to say that Bixby isn’t going to be giving Siri a run for her money anytime soon.

When Bixby launched alongside the rollout of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 lineup, it wasn’t very useful. Of course, it was, for all intents and purposes, still largely in a testing phase. But a newer, better version of Bixby was recently made available to a small handful of Galaxy S8 users, including Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff. As he pointed out in his hands-on review, there isn’t a lot that Bixby can do that Siri can’t. At least for now. Samsung’s proprietary digital assistant will get better, of course. It’s constantly improving using machine-learning, but the current version’s usefulness is still apparently snarled by its limitations and issues with speech recognition.

Bixby can do certain things that Siri can’t. For example, you can ask Bixby to take a screenshot and upload it Instagram. It’s a functionality made possible by Samsung’s opt-in support for third-party apps. But this is also indicative of how Siri and Bixby differ. Siri is tailor-made to pull information from external sources, while Bixby’s main purpose is to make normal phone functions accessible through speech commands. Eventually, Samsung wants Bixby to be cross-platform and to “follow” users around whichever device they happen to be using — though that’s still a ways off.

Really, Bixby’s limitations can be boiled down to its relative inexperience as a digital assistant. Siri has been around for six years and it’s undoubtedly a few steps ahead. But even as Bixby continues to improve, it’s unfair to think that Siri will somehow fall behind. Apple is one of the foremost researchers in artificial intelligence and is a founding member of the Partnership on AI — a group composed of organizations ranging from Google to Facebook, but not Samsung.

It’s unlikely that Apple will let Siri fall by the wayside as other digital assistants get better. Siri may not be getting the same media attention as ARKit or other newly unveiled Apple features, but that doesn’t mean Cupertino isn’t working on Siri behind the scenes. Apple is also significantly expanding its artificial intelligence and machine learning operations. Indeed, the company has the patents and acquisitions to show for it. It’s not a stretch to think that any AI advancements that Apple makes will eventually end up in Siri’s repertoire.

In short, Bixby is promising — but it’s no Siri killer. And if Apple continues to improve and upgrade its own digital assistant, it’s probable that Bixby never will be.

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