Partnerships / Acquisitions

Samsung Buys Another AI Startup To Bolster Bixby

Samsung Electronics has inked a deal to acquire Fluenty, the Korean artificial intelligence (AI) startup.

According to news from The Korea Herald, the deal includes the company’s engineers, technologies and assets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Fluenty developed a machine learning chatbot that is likely to end up in Samsung’s virtual assistant Bixby.

Fluenty, which came on the scenes in Jan. of 2015, rolled out a smart reply assistant mobile app that understands both English and Korean. In Sept. 2016, it took part in a Samsung startup incubator program and landed $918,000 in funding as a result.

Samsung is hoping to enhance its Bixby virtual assistant, which hasn’t been getting the best consumer reviews. Sources told the paper that the Samsung mobile communication unit developing Bixby is interested in the quick replies that don’t sound auto-generated found in Fluenty’s technology. In 2016, Samsung also acquired Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence startup based in the U.S.

As the market for voice-activated digital assistants heats up, the acquisition of AI startup Fluenty shows that Samsung is perhaps working to improve Bixby. In order to take on Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, the South Korean consumer electronics giant rolled out Bixby 2.0, a reinvention of its digital assistant platform, in October.

In a blog post at the time, Eui-Suk Chung, executive vice president and head of Service Intelligence of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said Bixby 2.0 will be a “fundamental leap forward for digital assistants and represents another important milestone to transform our digital lives.”

Arguing that while the virtual assistants of today are useful, Chung believes they will play a limited role in people’s lives, since most consumers use them to set timers or reminders and answer questions. What Samsung sees with Bixby 2.0 is a virtual assistant that will play an “intelligent” role in everything from phones to sprinkler systems. According to Chung, Bixby, which was launched when Samsung rolled out the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ earlier this year, is just the start for what the company’s virtual assistant will be able to do.

The first iteration of Bixby is available in more than 200 countries and has more than 10 million registered users.

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