Bixby Button: Doorway to Infinite Customization

injong rhee
September 20, 2017

Bixby is an intelligent, personalizable interface for your smartphone. You speak naturally to your phone to accomplish tasks, and Bixby will translate it into appropriate actions on your device. We have enabled almost all the functions of your phone with a corresponding voice command. The goal is to flatten the hierarchy of the menu trees by enabling voice commands for all tasks that are executable by touch. In addition, we have taken a suite of popular applications and mapped their most common functions.

The Bixby button on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, S8 and S8+ exists to provide the user with a convenient shortcut for any function available on the phone. The user can map a sequence of commands to a spoken word or phrase. 

For example, the user may want to have the phrase “on my way” mapped to a command – “send SMS to my wife I’m on my way home”.  This capability enables you to customize Bixby in an infinite number of ways.  

This new capability empowers users to program and personalize their phone using natural speech. 

Here are a couple more examples:

- “driving”  à  “turn off Wi-Fi in settings; turn on Bluetooth in settings; play music”

- “good night” à  “do not disturb; set alarm for 6am; turn on blue light filter”

In the process of building this capability, we feel we have taken the first steps towards programming the machine with human speech. With Bixby, programming is now not just for computer science professionals, but accessible to all – simply by speaking.  At Samsung, when we say “NLP is the holy grail”, we are not talking about “Natural Language Processing”, but rather, “Natural Language Programming”. 

All of this personalization is accessible in an unambiguous way via the Bixby button. This general-purpose remapping of the phones internal functions and command brings utility and convenience to the user. 

Considering the flexibility this feature offers, we feel mapping the Bixby button to one specific function seems shortsighted. Doing so would rob users of their freedom to customize how they interact with their machine. 

We are working on adding more customization capabilities to Bixby so you can do more complex actions. In the coming months, you can look forward to additional capabilities including:

- The ability to add parameters to commands or a sequence of commands; e.g., “coming home at <parameter>” maps to “send SMS to wife I’ll be home at <parameter>” – where <parameter> is replaced by the time spoken by the user. This kind of shortcut makes it easy to use the same starting phrase for a variety of different use cases.  Programmers and computer science geeks will see this as a function definition with parameters, and at a later time, calling the function with the appropriate arguments. Except, in this case, Bixby has to understand the sentence structure and extract the words that form the arguments to the function.

- Ability to use “IF” conditions before executing a command. e.g., “If mom calls, override do not disturb”. 

- Sharing your shortcuts with other users. 

- Stay tuned, we have a lot of exciting things coming.

We set out to make the Bixby button a customizable launch point for a user’s spoken commands. We have just started on what is possible with this. We will work diligently to build a better, personalized robot that is at your beck and call.