If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em.
Such seems to be the motto over at Samsung with the news that it will be hiring the team that built Siri.
Samsung has announced that it will acquire Viv Labs — founded by the creators of Apple’s Siri — for an as-yet-undisclosed sum of money. The news has been widely reported and confirmed. Viv Labs, as recently as May, was roadshowing its latest AI assistant (Viv) and how easily it handles various common language questions. The brain trust behind Viv — Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, and Chris Brigham — departed Apple in a staggered manner after the Siri acquisition in 2012 and have been working on Viv ever since. Viv Labs will be under the Samsung banner but will continue to operate independently, according to recent reports.
So, why is Samsung buying the tech and the team that built it? Apart from its phone and tablet products, Samsung, more than nearly any other electronics player, is also wired into building the smart devices that will power the IoT, and to cement that position, an AI assistant is becoming an increasingly important tool to bring.
“Our focus is really more device-centric,” Samsung mobile unit CTO Injong Rhee told Recode in an interview. “How do we revolutionize how users interact with our devices and our appliances?”
The Viv tech will likely start out in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy line before making the device jump to objects like TVs. The move will also possibly give Samsung slightly greater autonomy from Google, which provides its phones’ OS. Android Pay and Samsung Pay are already competitive services, and Viv could be Samsung’s attempt to race with Google when it comes to controlling connected devices.
Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus said of the acquisition:
“Samsung is setting its sights on becoming a major player in software and services, and specifically AI. Samsung Pay has already proven to be one of the most successful mobile payment platforms in the market, and SmartThings is another software acquisition signaling their conviction. And they have installed a new cadre of senior SW-savvy management stretching all the way to the top with a mission. You will soon come to see the utter seriousness of Samsung’s intentions. And like us, they aim to win.”