Samsung wants its own personal assistant, acquires team that created Siri

The world of virtual personal assistants is getting crowded.

There are those that live in your phone — Apple has Siri and Google unveiled its new Google Assistant this week. There are standalone models such as Google’s new Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. And then there are those that dwell in your online messaging services, such as Facebook’s Messenger bots.

The newest addition to the club may come from Samsung.

The electronics company on Wednesday night announced it will acquire Viv Labs — the San Jose-based artificial intelligence startup founded by the creators of Siri. The move shows Samsung is interested in a personal assistant of its own — according to the company, the buy is part of its plan to develop an AI system that works across all Samsung devices and services.

As part of the deal Samsung gets access to Siri creators Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, as well as Viv’s third co-founder, Chris Brigham.  The team will work closely with Samsung’s mobile business, but will operate independently under their own leadership, according to a news release.

“Unlike other existing AI-based services, Viv has a sophisticated natural language understanding, machine learning capabilities and strategic partnerships that will enrich a broader service ecosystem,” Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung’s mobile communications business, wrote in the release. “Viv was built with both consumers and developers in mind. This dual focus is also what attracted us to Viv as an ideal candidate to integrate with Samsung home appliances, wearables and more, as the paradigm of how we interact with technology shifts to intelligent interfaces and voice control.”

The Verge described the Viv assistant as “incredible” when it debuted in New York earlier this year. What makes Viv special appears to be its ability to handle queries on its own by connecting to third-party merchants to buy things and book reservations instead of passing off requests to a web browser. The Washington Post described Viv’s ability to order a delivery pizza from start to finish without requiring the user to type anything, use a web search or download a food delivery app.

“At Viv, we’re building the simplest way for anyone to talk to devices and services everywhere,” Kittlaus wrote. “We see a future that is decidedly beyond apps — where you can get what you need quickly and easily no matter where you are, or what device you are near.”

Photo: In this July 28, 2016, file photo, a color blending feature of the Galaxy Note 7 is demonstrated in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


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  • Bill Conway

    Siri, please teach me to build a phone that does not burst into flames