User Centric AI: Can Samsung be a game changer for the AI industry?

Samsung didn’t invent the mobile phone, but it took a transformative innovative technology and ran with it. Innovation is not just about something new, but it can also be about doing something better. Samsung is a latecomer in the AI industry compared to Google, Amazon and Apple. Can Samsung become a game changer for the AI industry like what it did before with a mobile phone?

 

In the home, when a user wakes up in the morning on a rainy day, the home lights will gradually brighten, while music fit for a rainy day is selected and played in the background. A cup of coffee will be prepared as soon as the user says “coffee” while stepping into the kitchen and the refrigerator will also recommend meal ideas for the day, asking the user whether he or she would like to buy ingredients online. This is what future looks like according to Samsung based on connected devices and services based on artificial intelligence (AI). [1]

Samsung Electronics announced that it will put AI features in all its devices by 2020. Its AI strategy focuses on five core aspects: “user-centric”, “always learning”, “always there”, “always helpful” and “always safe”. [2] It is widely known that AI will be a major selling point of its next generation mobile products. Also, developing core platform for AI is crucial to existing Samsung products and services portfolio in consumer electronics and enabling its new business such as robotics and auto electronics.

However, Samsung is a latecomer in the AI industry, compared with its rivals. Apple unveiled its AI voice assistant, Siri, in 2011 and has since improved the quality of its service. Google is also seeking to expand its AI presence, backed by its dominant Android mobile operating system, allowing users to access its AI service, Google Assistant. [3] Although Samsung introduced its voice assistant, Bixby, which is developed by inventors of Siri, through Galaxy S8 in 2017, it did not gain much attention. To catch up with its competitors, Samsung established Samsung Research Artificial Intelligence Center (SAIC) in November 2017 by consolidating various AI-related research teams within the Samsung Electronics Corporate R&D Center. [4] It also added four AI centers globally (United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Russia) in the last two years. Samsung is now actively hiring AI expert from all over the area. By securing global AI experts, Samsung Research plans to expand its number of advanced AI researchers to a total of about 1,000 globally by 2020. [5] Furthermore, it planned to invest $22 billion in AI technology by 2020. [5] For example, last week, Samsung invested in an AI home robot company, Trifo, in funding to build the next generation of smart home robots. [6]

Source: https://news.samsung.com/global/all-in-on-ai

Samsung recently announced the launching of Galaxy Home. It can automatically sync with the smart home devices by utilizing a built-in SmartThings hub. Eventually, Samsung’s plan is to connect all home appliances with its Bixby-led ecosystem. [7] The plan seems to have a high potential since the company sells almost half a billion connected devices every year. Given the typical lifecycle of a device, there are more than a billion Samsung devices actively used around the world at any given time. Samsung’s device portfolio is the industry’s broadest, and includes mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearable devices, office devices such as PCs, signages, devices for the home such as Samsung Smart TVs, Family Hub and Flex Wash, and much more. [2]

However, the Galaxy Home does not seem very different from Amazon Echo, which became a mega-hit with a sales record of 5 million last year already has a presence in market. Also, as a non-manufacturing industry player, Amazon is expanding its reach with partnering with existing players such as LG Electronics, Huawei, and Volkswagen. [3] Even though Amazon is partnering with other hardware manufacturers, users could confront with fragmented experience from different hardware manufacturers. In order to differentiate itself, Samsung needs to utilize its ecosystem and focus on designing the entire user journey seamlessly.

Seamless integration requires machine learning to be heavily user-centered. Here, designers can come into play by providing deep understanding on users’ behavior, context of an environment and culture. Since machine learning would not figure out what problems to solve, machine learning engineers should collaborate with the user experts to align the problem with human need. Designers can help engineers to build the right algorithm by doing traditional ethnography, contextual inquiries, interviews, and surveys. [8] Furthermore, designers can help in deciding when to integrate AI in the user experience. Users can lose control as more products add more automation to our lives. Designers can intervene and help in finding the appropriate proportion of human control vs. machine control.

For the past decades, Samsung successfully introduced products by understanding the lifestyle and behavior of consumers. Samsung will create the new value to the consumers if they successfully builds user-centric AI eco-system rather than device-centric ecosystem.

Open Question

Being a technology company headquartered in Korea makes it hard to attract the top talent. How can Samsung attract AI experts?

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Footnotes

[1] News.samsung.com. (2018). [Editorial] How Samsung is Ushering in a Consumer-centric AI World. [online] Available at: https://news.samsung.com/global/editorial-how-samsung-is-ushering-in-a-consumer-centric-ai-world.

[2] koreatimes. (2018). ‘All Samsung devices will AI-enabled by 2020’. [online] Available at: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2018/09/133_255151.html

[3] koreatimes. (2018). Samsung takes on Google, Apple in AI. [online] Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2018/08/133_226305.html

[4] AI Center Seoul | Samsung Research. (2018). AI Center Seoul | Samsung Research. [online] Available at: https://research.samsung.com/aicenter_seoul

[5] U.S. (2018). Samsung to invest $22 bln in AI by 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/samsung-elec-phones-idUSL4N1XI5LD

[6] GlobeNewswire News Room. (2018). Trifo Builds the Next Generation of AI Home Robots with $11 Million in New Funding. [online] Available at: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/11/07/1647045/0/en/Trifo-Builds-the-Next-Generation-of-AI-Home-Robots-with-11-Million-in-New-Funding.html

[7] Samsung Electronics America. (2018). Galaxy Home – Bixby Virtual Assistant & AKG Smart Speaker | Samsung US. [online] Available at: https://www.samsung.com/us/explore/galaxy-home/

[8] Medium. (2018). Human-Centered Machine Learning – Google Design – Medium. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/google-design/human-centered-machine-learning-a770d10562cd

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1 thought on “User Centric AI: Can Samsung be a game changer for the AI industry?

  1. Great article and interesting read! It was very interesting that you mentioned that seamless integration requires machine learning to be heavily user-centered. With the shift in the job market, I have always found that finding new talent is extremely difficult. This seems particularly challenging especially since Samsung is late to the game.

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