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July 11, 2017

Samsung Bixby’s Open Q&A serves up answers to simple questions

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Want to know LeBron James’ exact height or the capital of North Korea? Bixby’s Q&A feature has you covered.

Bixby, Samsung’s artificially intelligent digital assistant, may not be quite as capable as the competition but it is getting better every day. Case in point? Bixby’s newest feature, Open Q&A.

Open Q&A, a component of Bixby Voice, is sort of like the Google Assistant on Android, or Siri on the iPhone: It offers quick, single-sentence answers to specific questions about people, places, and things. It launches with the trigger phrase, “Open Q&A session,” and draws from a growing database of crowd-sourced factoids about celebrities, food, politics, and more. In the U.S., it’s only available to members of the Bixby Voice early-access program, but Samsung says Open Q&A will roll out more widely in the coming months.

If you own a Galaxy S8 and enrolled in the preview program, head into Bixby — you should receive the update there.

Unfortunately for Galaxy S8 owners who have not signed up to preview Bixby Voice, it might be a while before Open Q&A feature makes its way to more devices. Bixby Voice, which launched in South Korea but missed its U.S. target launch date of “spring,” is reportedly struggling to understand the English language because it lacks the data needed to develop Bixby’s deep learning technology.

“Developing Bixby in other languages is taking more time than we expected mainly because of the lack of the accumulation of big data,” a Samsung spokesperson told The Verge in June.

It’s unclear what effect the Bixby Voice preview program, which launched a few weeks ago, has had on Samsung’s efforts to jumpstart Bixby’s machine learning algorithms, and how long it will take before Samsung engineers feel comfortable releasing it publicly.

That is not the only impediment to Bixby Voice’s software development, apparently. Language and geographical barriers between Samsung’s U.S. and Korea offices have contributed to delays, according to the Korea Herald, and it has split attention between English and Bixby’s other supported languages.

Despite the challenges Samsung faces with Bixby, the company’s fully committed to its future. In June, Samsung announced that it would begin preloading Bixby in its Family Hub 2.0 refrigerator and that it would roll out an over-the-air update for units that have already shipped. Rumor has it that Samsung’s working on a smart speaker code-named Vega, powered by Bixby.

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