Sam­sung in­vests in AI tech to over­come Note 7 fi­asco

Tech gi­ant looks to res­ur­rect its rep­u­ta­tion with new en­try in Galaxy smart­phone line

Toronto Star - - CLASSIFIED - JUNGAH LEE BLOOMBERG

Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co. plans to equip its next Galaxy S smart­phones with a Siri-like dig­i­tal as­sis­tant, seek­ing to make a come­back af­ter the global de­ba­cle that pre­cip­i­tated the death of its flawed Note 7 lineup.

Sam­sung, which last month ac­quired U.S.-based ar­ti­fi­cial-in­tel­li­gence soft­ware com­pany Viv Labs Inc., said the Galaxy S8 slated for next year will come with AI-en­abled fea­tures that will be sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from those of Ap­ple Inc.’s Siri or Google, ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent Rhee In-jong told re­porters. Those ser­vices now of­fer up po­ten­tially use­ful in­for­ma­tion from the weather to flight times based on user ac­tiv­ity.

“It will be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­en­ti­ated from the cur­rent ser­vices we see in the mar­ket now,” Rhee said of the S8’s fea­tures. He said last month the com­pany plans to em­bed Viv’s tech­nol­ogy in other elec­tron­ics and home ap­pli­ances beyond phones.

The flag­ship Galaxy S line will prove cru­cial to sal­vaging Sam­sung’s rep­u­ta­tion in the wake of the fi­asco sur­round­ing a Note 7 de­vice prone to burst­ing into flame. The re­call and even­tual ces­sa­tion of the line is es­ti­mated to cost up­wards of $6 bil­lion and pushed prof­its at its mo­bile divi­sion to a record low in the Septem­ber quar­ter. The com­pany is now in­ves­ti­gat­ing the root cause be­hind the fires, but wouldn’t com­ment on progress so far.

Sam­sung shares rose 1.1 per cent in Seoul trad­ing Mon­day and had gained 29 per cent this year be­fore to­day.

Global tech­nol­ogy play­ers are vy­ing to build de­vices at­tuned to users’ life­styles and daily be­hav­iour. Ama­zon is try­ing to sign up more de­vel­op­ers for its Alexa voice tech­nol­ogy, while Ap­ple has re­cently touted more Siri ca­pa­bil­i­ties and opened the tech­nol­ogy to other de­vel­op­ers. Google, con­sid­ered the leader in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, is mak­ing its own push.

Sam­sung is now get­ting into the game. It re­leases new ver­sions of its top-tier Galaxy S se­ries some­time in the first quar­ter of every year, typ­i­cally dur­ing the Mo­bile World Congress in Spain. With the Note 7 line now de­funct, the S8 will be­come its de facto show­case smart­phone.

The com­pany is keen to put the Note 7 be­hind it and re­sus­ci­tate its busi­ness. Sam­sung re­ported a sharp de­cline in profit as the Note 7 re­call took its toll. Net in­come fell 17 per cent to 4.41tril­lion won ($5.17 bil­lion) in the third quar­ter, bring­ing its mo­bile profit to a his­toric low of 100 bil­lion won.

Sam­sung suf­fered a sep­a­rate set­back with a dif­fer­ent prod­uct last week. The com­pany is re­call­ing about 2.8 mil­lion wash­ing ma­chines in the U.S. amid re­ports that the top of the ma­chine can be­come de­tached dur­ing use. Sam­sung said in a Nov. 4 state­ment that it will of­fer con­sumers a free in-home re­pair of the ma­chine, or a re­bate that can be used when con­sumers buy a new ma­chine. For more re­cent pur­chases, con­sumers can get a full re­fund.

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Sam­sung ac­quired AI-soft­ware firm Viv Labs Inc. last month.

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