Samsung reckons its cracked Natural Language Processing

Samsung has had a bit of a humble-brag, subtly announcing its virtual assistant, Bixby, is now available in more than 200 countries, while also nailing Natural Language Processing (NLP).

It’s the frustration most users would have experienced when using any voice-activated application; the interaction does not seem fluid. This will probably be the reason most do not use their virtual assistant’s (it is for your correspondent), as you have to use specific phrases or combinations of worlds, as opposed to everyday language. It takes away the convenience of having a virtual assistant if you have to ask the same question several times.

This is where NLP comes into play. The assistant will understand common language, slang or abbreviations, meaning it is a more natural conversation. It’s a very important area of artificial intelligence, but is often forgotten as machine learning claims all the applause.

“Now millions of customers worldwide have access to a new and intelligent way of interacting with their phone,” said Injong Rhee, Head of R&D for Software and Services of the Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics.

“The expansion of Bixby’s voice capabilities is an initial step in the continued rollout of Bixby functionality. In the future, Bixby will have the learning power to offer more intelligent and personalized interactions and seamless connections across more devices.”

Using the example Samsung has given us, the assistant will understand the command ‘send the picture just taken to Mom’. Firstly, it will understand the context of ‘picture just taken’ and then also the second component of the sentence, therefore sending the image to the individuals mother.

Of course, we are just taking Samsung’s word for it currently. There have been plenty of bold claims to date over progress in the NLP world, but few have lived up to the promise. Should it prove to be true however, this could certainly be a major victory for Samsung. The team was late to the virtual assistant game and has been playing catch up ever since. Such a breakthrough would put Bixby on a more level pegging.

What is a nice little touch which the other virtual assistants haven’t been shouting about recently is the linking features. Samsung has said you can do multiple functions with one command. For instance, activating two features of the same application (Call Mom and turn on the speakerphone), or even linking into your GPS settings (Remind me to buy milk at the store), and even more complex tasks (Find all of my photos from Dallas, tag them Vacation, and add them to a photo album). It’s a nice little addition which could be useful, assuming it works well of course.

Software is the new battle ground for handset manufacturers in the smartphone war. For hardware, there is not much you can actually do to differentiate the device from other manufacturers, and no-one has managed to emulate Apple’s cultivation of an army of sleepwalking iLifers just yet. Enhancing the user experience, created unique features in the software and more competent interactions with both the user and the environment are ways in which this differentiation can be achieved.

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