Samsung's virtual assistant Bixby Voice is now available for customers in India, the company said on Friday. The arrival of Bixby, the plan for which the company shared earlier this month, further intensifies the battle for AI-powered digital assistants. Google has its Assistant, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and Amazon has Alexa, which is also set to be launched in the country later this year.
The South Korean electronics company, which assumes the tentpole position among smartphone makers by both volume and brand value, said it had put months of rigorous efforts at its Research and Development centres in Bengaluru, its largest R&D facility outside Korea, to understand and adapt to Indian dialects and contexts. Samsung says it has thoroughly baked in support for various Indian accents, letting even those customers who have opted for English (US) language, make use of Bixby.
"Keeping in mind the diversity in Indian accents and our commitment to 'Make for India', Bixby has been optimized to understand Indian accents," said Mr. Asim Warsi, Senior Vice President, Mobile Business, Samsung India in a press statement.
Bixby, which was launched across several US and European markets earlier this year, offers four essential features to customers - the ability to talk to Bixby, take pictures and let it make sense of it, use it to set reminders, and receive recommendations for products, foods, and things to read. The virtual assistant offers "Quick Commands" feature that allows users to create a custom voice command to use in place of a sequence of one or more commands. For example, the company said, one can use the command "good night" as a shortcut for "Turn on Do-not-disturb mode, set an alarm for 6:00 AM and turn on blue light filter."
Samsung's Bixby assistant, unlike Siri and Google's Assistant, doesn't work with a wide-range of smartphones. At present, only the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and the Galaxy Note 8 offer this functionality - with the recently unveiled Samsung Galaxy J7+ featuring the Bixby Home app. Samsung-made Android smartphones, however, also support Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa, should users desire to utilise them.
The limited target audience for Bixby might emerge as a roadblock in its growth. Apple has shown some commitment to improve Siri's reachability in India, adding diction support for a handful of local languages including Hindi. iOS 11, the latest mobile operating system from Apple that is expected to roll out later this month, will introduce that support. In the meantime, Amazon is planning to bring Alexa with the Echo Dot smart-speaker in India later this year, people familiar with the matter said.