“Bixby will forever change the way you use your phone,” says Samsung of the voice-activated personal assistant integrated with its Galaxy S8 phones. But to change forever the way many U.S. customers use their phones, Bixby is going to have to brush up its English.
Reports Timothy W. Martin in The Wall Street Journal, “…the English-language Bixby is still weeks away from being finished, according to people familiar with the matter, though no ultimate decision has been made on timing. Recent internal tests of the service have revealed the voice-activated assistant is struggling to comprehend English syntax and grammar, one of the people said.”
He quotes a Samsung spokesperson as saying, “Bixby Voice benefits from time to further enhance natural language understanding, and we are currently growing our user testing in the U.S. to prepare for launch.”
Consumers might not much care. “Virtual assistants aren’t a major hit with smartphone users,” reports Martin, citing Ovum figures that just 9% of consumers use services like Siri on a regular basis, while 50% claim no knowledge of or interest in digital assistants.
Nevertheless, reports Ovum, “Globally, the native digital assistant installed base is set to exceed 7.5 billion active devices by 2021, which is more than the world population according to the U.S. Census Bureau on May 1, 2017.”
The firm’s report Digital Assistant and Voice AI–Capable Device Forecast: 2016–21 says that “…smartphones and tablets clearly lead the voice AI-capable device market, with 3.5 billion active devices in 2016, most of which use Google Now and Apple Siri.” Nevertheless, the firm expects exponential uptake of the technology in wearable, smart-home, and TV devices.
“Ultimately, a digital assistant is just another user interface,” said Ronan de Renesse, practice leader for Ovum’s consumer technology team and author of the report. “It will only be as good as the ecosystem of devices and services that it is compatible with. Partnerships between tech giants and local service providers will therefore be key differentiators. There is a disconnect between the ‘know-it-all, do-it-all’ approach that current digital assistants are aiming toward and the highly personalized virtual assistance experience that consumers have dreams/nightmares about. Whoever can bring personal consumer data in a secure, non-creepy way to digital assistance will be able to bridge that gap and capture most of the opportunity.”