[THE INVESTOR] Not to be outdone by Google, whose artificial intelligence Duplex successfully booked a table and a haircut at its big unveiling last week, Samsung said it plans to showcase a bot that sounds just like a human as early as next year.
“Developing an AI solution that can talk like a human is what we are getting at,” said Kim Hyun-seok, the chief of Samsung Electronics‘ home appliance division, at a media conference for AI held in Seoul on May 17, forecasting that all of Samsung’s digital devices will ultimately come fitted with the personal assistants.
Kim Hyun-seok, CEO of Samsung Electronics' consumer electronics division.
Computer systems that can conduct natural conversations with humans are called mixed initiatives, and the tech giant has been running projects for such solutions for years, according to the tech firm.
“(Our version) will not likely be designed to conduct specific tasks, but will serve as a personal assistant that handles general commands, much like a navigation system,” the CEO said
Samsung’s projects tend to be hardware-centric, but since establishing an AI research center under Samsung Research this year, the tech behemoth has been beefing up the AI research workforce. It aims to hire at least 1,000 researchers by the end of this year and has an ambitious plan to have all of 500 million digital products it rolls out each year installed with AI solutions by 2020.
Samsung also plans to launch an updated version of AI solution Bixby in the second half. The Bixby 2.0 will be first available on the Galaxy Note 9 smartphone, which is forecast to be showcased as early as August, according to a Samsung official.
Samsung had initially launched Bixby as an AI system for high-end smartphones, but recently decided to designate Bixby as an AI platform for all Samsung devices.
The following are excerpts from the media conference.
Question: Is Samsung developing a human-sounding AI like Google Duplex?
Kim: Basically, we want to develop an AI solution that can talk like a human. As a hardware-centric company, however, R&D projects at Samsung, including those for AI, revolve around hardware devices. Therefore, technologies like an AI-powered personal assistant are lower on our list of priorities. But yes, more Samsung devices will be equipped with personal assistants down the road.
Q: How many AI researchers does Samsung have now?
Kim: Securing seasoned researchers has become a crucial mission for Samsung. We think we need at least 1,000 experts to achieve what we want in AI R&D, so the company plans to hire at least 1,000 AI researchers by the end of this year.
Q: Do you plan to acquire AI companies?
Kim: We are reviewing a number of AI companies for future M&As. There are various sub-segments in the AI industry, and each segment needs experts with different skills. We are willing to take over both domestic and foreign companies that we think have competitive technologies.
Q: Tell us about Bixby 2.0, which is first being adopted in the Galaxy Note 9.
Kim: Bixby 2.0 will be released in the second half as announced before. The biggest difference from the previous version, is it will run on a cloud system, which will help keep data synchronized on a variety of devices. A faster update via the cloud services and a better recognition of users’ commands will be some of the features.
Q: When do you plan to launch an AI speaker?
Kim: I cannot reveal the exact schedule, but it will be launched in the second half. The AI-based functions of the speaker will not be different from those featured in other home appliances, including refrigerators.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)