The Korea Herald is reporting that Samsung has acquired “Korean artificial intelligence startup Fluenty in a move to boost its AI capabilities.” The article states that Fluenty has 10 employees and “Samsung is expected to incorporate the startup’s technologies into its AI voice assistant service Bixby.”
Crunchbase shows that the company previously raised $420,000 in 2016 from undisclosed sources and does not list a purchase price for the Samsung acquisition. LinkedIn indicates that the founders worked together at Korean search company Daum Communications and also have experience at Naver.
AI Beyond Messaging
Fluently currently has a Google Play app, but is designed to work in concert with popular messaging apps such as Messenger, Whatsapp and Kakao. It has a few marketing tag lines and one is “less texting, more living.” The product video shows people using the Fluenty for quick smart replies to texts that don’t require typing.
The product also boasts other features such as deep linking to restaurant menus and automatically integrating with mapping apps. There is also a SmartReply API that enables other apps to incorporate Fluenty’s text reply features.
What About Viv
Samsung’s Bixby has had a rough start in terms of launch delays and consumer reception, at least for the English-language version. Many Samsung smartphone users have even taken to remapping the physical Bixby button to launch Google Assistant instead. Despite those challenges, a Samsung executive revealed during the announcement of a developer SDK in October that Bixby had 10 million active users globally.
Fluenty will be at least the third component of Samsung’s consumer AI solutions. Bixby today is an internally developed voice assistant. Samsung acquired Viv in 2016 to enhance those capabilities but that technology is not expected to debut until late 2018 or 2019. Fluently looks like an attempt to introduce new multimodal features such as the integration of voice and text similar to the current manifestation of Google Assistant on smartphones.