Samsung joins the AI big leagues with purchase of Viv Labs


I barely use voice assistants, but it’s hard to argue that the tech top dogs think they’re the way forward. Amazon and Google are currently battling for control of the living room with Echo and Google Home, and Siri, Google Now and Cortana are competing on mobile, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see Samsung beefing up its own offering.

And that’s exactly what the Galaxy phone maker has done with the purchase of Viv Labs, the team behind the artificial-intelligence software Viv, which aims to handle your everyday tasks without any intervention. You may not have heard of Viv – it’s yet to launch – but you’ll be familiar with its founders’ work. Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham were the brains behind Siri, but they left Apple two years after the acquisition to found Viv.

It hasn’t been revealed how much the Samsung paid for the company, but it’s understood that Viv and its 50 or so San Jose-based employees will continue to work independently of the Samsung mothership.

What will this actually mean for Samsung? Well, presumably in the short term it’s hoping that people will stop using Google Now on its flagship phones, but there could be more than that too. If Amazon Echo and Google Home take off, then Samsung could try its own version, but there’s no reason to stop there either. Unlike Apple or HTC, Samsung devices are all over the house, from televisions to washing machines. Viv could sit within all these devices, adding a sprinkling of artificial intelligence throughout your house.

In case you’re curious, this is currently what most people use voice assistants for, via our friends at Statista:


Viv Labs claims that Viv is not your average artificial intelligence, and is able to write its own code to complete new tasks as they appear – something they call “dynamic program generation”. As it hasn’t yet launched, it’s hard to speculate as to how impressive this will be in practice, but Samsung clearly sees potential there. It may be a few years yet before we see any practical commercial benefits, but this is an unambiguous statement of intent against Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

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