At CES this year, Samsung showed off an impressive yet bizarre product from its Star Labs subsidiary - NEON. This service uses AI to produce a digital assistant that is convincingly human in both vocal capabilities as well as in visual. The second aspect was the real shock - a moving, talking, interacting virtual human being on a screen. In the demo, these virtual people were on large screens on a wall at a distance. According to reports, this reality might be about to change in Samsung's device future.
Samsung is currently testing integrating NEON assistants into its phones. In fact, Star Labs CEO Pranav Mistry casually mentioned on Twitter that he's already running a NEON assistant on his own personal phone. We can assume that he is currently running a high-end Samsung phone, considering his employer. We can also assume that he's not running NEON on his phone as a casual experiment but as a technological test for future deployment. In fact, he also added that we can see on our phones before Christmas.
While this move is technologically cool, and I personally can't wait to see it in action on my phone, it is also a surprise. Samsung has not had the best of luck in the digital assistant realm. Bixby has been an absolute disaster for the company, with the biggest complaint about the launch of the Galaxy S10 being the inability to reprogram the Bixby button because no one wanted to use it. On the other hand, the company's Invoke smart speaker is set to lose its smart capabilities in January 2021.
The idea that Samsung would not just embrace a new digital assistant on its devices, but to expand the role from a disembodied voice to a virtual digital body, is a shock. Maybe the technological expansion will be the thing to finally win Samsung some market share in this area, but it seems like a big swing hoping to put a piece of technology it has invested in that wasn't able to be implemented because of the lockdowns.