Samsung has purchased Viv, an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant company founded by the makers of Siri, the South Korean electronics giant said on Thursday as it looks to bolster the software and services it offers across its devices.
The acquisition was made for an undisclosed fee and Viv would “work closely” with Samsung’s mobile team but operate independently.
It’s Samsung’s fifth acquisition in just over a year and a half as the company looks for new areas of growth from payments to AI.
Viv was founded by Siri creators Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham. Samsung’s acquisition pits it against other major technology companies including Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft which are investing heavily in AI and personal assistant technology.
Google unveiled Assistant on Tuesday, it’s AI-powered system that works through its Home hub or smartphones. Amazon recently launched its Echo speaker in the U.K. which is powered by the AI assistant called Alexa.
For Samsung, the idea is to look at a world beyond just hardware sales to where it can create revenue streams from services. Last year, it launched its contactless payment service called Samsung Pay, for example.
With the addition of Viv, Samsung will be able to bring a digital personal assistant to its phones but also the plethora of devices in its ecosystem from smartwatches to home appliances. Samsung also has its own smart home hub through the company SmartThings which it bought in 2014 for $200 million.
“Samsung has an ecosystem of devices many of which really benefit from voice control and intelligent agents,” Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS Markit, told CNBC by phone.
“What it indicates is that Samsung’s appetite to be a major player not just in hardware, not just in operating systems on watches or TV, but a layer that has services behind the hardware. These investments will make it increasingly hard for smaller hardware companies to compete because this kind of software is very much a scale business in terms of investment and training data needed to make the assistant smart.”
At the same time, Samsung will be able to create the same user experience and interface with Viv across all of its devices, Fogg added.
Viv is yet to launch however so it’s hard to tell how it will work in the real world. The platform allows third-party developers to integrate Viv with their apps.
“Viv was built with both consumers and developers in mind. This dual focus is also what attracted us to Viv as an ideal candidate to integrate with Samsung home appliances, wearables and more, as the paradigm of how we interact with technology shifts to intelligent interfaces and voice control,” Injong Rhee, chief technology officer of Samsung’s mobile business said in a press release.