The artificial intelligence (AI) market is just beginning to heat up. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant are all running to become the top AI assistant in the smartphone industry. Where is Samsung in all of this? Samsung uses the Android operating system’s built-in and hugely inferior voice controls. However, don’t count the company out just yet.
Samsung recently acquired Viv Labs, and what that company has on the drawing board is almost mind-blowing. The AI assistant it is working on is called Viv, and it is technically not in the drawing-board stage anymore. A working prototype of Viv is already fully functional, as you can see in the video below. However, the company is still developing its “brain,” so it will be a little while before Samsung adopts it into its devices.
Isn’t Samsung too late to the show? How can it compete with companies like Apple, which has been working on Siri for well over five years now?
To begin with, the minds at Viv Labs are the same ones that created Siri. Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer founded Viv Labs after creating Siri. This aspect alone is assurance that Viv aims to be better than Siri. Developers are always trying to outdo themselves, and this should be no different. Plus, Dag and Adam have a firm understanding of Siri’s weaknesses and can improve upon those with Viv to create something that is better.
Additionally, Samsung is allowing Viv Labs to remain autonomous. According to Digital Trends, Viv Labs has a vision of creating an AI assistant that will be on more than just smartphones. They want to create the AI that will help run your house, your car, and your computer. Therefore, Samsung agreed to allow the subsidiary to run itself independently while working closely with Samsung’s mobile division.
What they have so far is pretty amazing. Dag Kittlaus demoed Viv at TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2016 event in New York. He showed that Viv is capable of understanding very complex questions. Some of the questions that he asked the prototype AI would take several seconds for a human brain to process and formulate an answer. Viv retrieved answers in fractions of a second.
For example, Dag asked Viv, “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5 p.m. the day after tomorrow?”
Viv was able to understand the query and retrieve the information from Weather Underground.
Kittlaus stated, “Very few assistants in the world do stuff like this.”
If it were true, Samsung would be set to take over the industry in a couple of years. However, running the same question through Siri proved Kittlaus’ assertion was inaccurate. Siri was entirely capable of understanding the question and pulling the weather for the date. It even opined that it would probably be around 75 degrees at 5 p.m.
The only significant difference in the result was that Weather Underground holds a more precise time breakdown than the default weather app on the iPhone, but that is not what is at issue. Kittlaus said other AIs are incapable of handling complex queries like that, and Siri proved that to be false. In another example, Dag asked Viv if it rained three Thursdays ago and got an accurate response.
When the same question is posed to Siri, it says, “Sorry, I can’t get weather for dates in the past.”
Again, this was due to Apple’s weather app and not because Siri couldn’t understand the question. When it comes to demonstrating the understanding of complex queries and natural language, Viv shows that it can keep up with and compete on the same level as other AIs. Despite Dag’s contentions, he did not demonstrate that Viv is any better than any of its competitors in this regard. However, there were two other aspects of the assistant mentioned that might make it the superior AI — eventually.
The first is that Viv is capable of writing its own code. Right now, it does this in response to formulating answers to queries, but this is the very beginning of creating self-teaching machines. An AI that is capable of writing its own code is capable of evolving and learning without programmer intervention. Self-learning is something AI scientists have been researching for decades. At this time, Viv’s code-writing functionality is rudimentary and limited, but the algorithms may develop into something far more complex over time. For now, the generated algorithms only pertain to data gathering, but in the future, Viv may be able to interpret specific meaning from vague context with a fair degree of accuracy.
For example, if you query about wines often, Viv may be able to teach itself that when you ask, “What’s a good red?” that you are referring to wine and not paint. Current AIs handle questions like that by directly plugging the question verbatim into a search engine and spitting back the results. A learning AI would at the very least provide search results more tailored to the learned preferences.
Deciphering context in this way may not seem like a big deal, but it is what allows humans to speak in a natural manner rather than like robots. We readily interpret meanings of what other people say, especially when we are familiar with the speaker. For computers, this is not so easy because all data is literal, and that cannot be changed. Only how the data is interpreted can be changed, and that is not so straightforward.
The second aspect that is almost sure to make Viv superior to Siri and other AIs is that Viv Labs plans on allowing app developers to help build Viv’s brain. The company has created the Viv Developer Center (VDC). The VDC is a software development platform that allows programmers to create apps for the smartphone. However, the VDC has another far more important function.
As developers create their apps, they will tie them to Viv and thus “teach” it new things. Kittlaus showed a map of Viv’s brain as it exists right now; it looks like a map of the cosmos. In fact, Dag refers to it as “the universe of capabilities.” Thousands of dots of various sizes all connected to each other with lines, like constellations. Kittlaus points out that the brain map was created by only a few programmers.
“This is what the developers will be adding to over time, and you can imagine that with thousands of people entering, the power that this is going to gain,” stated Kittlaus.
While Samsung may be getting a very late start in the AI assistant game, the acquisition of Viv Labs was a smart move and one that has the potential of putting them out in front in the race for the perfect virtual secretary. Dag did not say when Viv will be ready, and according to Digital Trends, neither has Samsung. However, with a working prototype and a development platform that is ready to take on thousands of programmers, it is a fair speculation that we will be seeing Viv go live within the next couple iterations of Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones.
[Featured Image by Profit_Image/Shutterstock]