According to a report from the Wall Street Journal
today, Samsung is "considering a hardware revamp" for the Galaxy S8 that will add features including a dedicated artificial intelligence button. Pressing the AI key will launch a new digital assistant being developed by Samsung specifically for the phone.
The button will be mounted on the side of the handset, according to the Wall Street Journal's sources. The digital assistant will resemble a "beefed-up" version of Apple's Siri, although Samsung's plans may be subject to change. The company hopes the new and innovative software will win customers back to its brand.
In the past few years, Samsung has kept the design of its flagship smartphones largely the same. It is understood to be working on more far-reaching changes for 2017 though, in part to create a new image as it recovers from the aftermath of the Galaxy Note 7's worldwide recall
. The company is understandably keen to depart from its newfound reputation for fires and explosions.
It's for this reason it's decided to delay the S8's launch from its regular position in February into the month of April. The company is giving itself more time to develop the phone, as opposed to the rushed design of the Note 7. Samsung hoped to beat
what was being billed as Apple's "lacklustre" iPhone 7 to market, making a catastrophic failure along the way as it placed pressure on teams to get the phone ready. Its engineers still don't know what caused the handsets to overheat.
Samsung will differentiate next year's S8 with a new design, a later launch than usual
in a less crowded period and a new emphasis
on artificial intelligence. The company hasn't updated its existing virtual assistant service, S Voice, in around four years as Google's own software has dominated voice control. As interest in AI grows, Samsung is thought to desire its own platform that it has control over.
Last month, the company announced it has purchased
Viv Labs, a digital assistant created by the original team behind what's now Siri. Samsung said it plans to
integrate Viv into its entire product range, including smartphones, TVs and smart home devices. It wants to build an "AI-based open ecosystem" that Samsung customers can interact with regardless of the product they're using.
The Galaxy S8 will be a "springboard" for this technology, Injong Rhee, Samsung Mobile's chief technology officer, said last week. Samsung will be using the S8 as a testing ground for Viv before it expands the service into a wider range of products. The Wall Street Journal reports
Rhee described Viv's features as "significantly differentiated" from the competition, bringing compelling advantages over the Google Assistant
integrated into Android 7.0 Nougat.
Viv is able to write its own code and build itself, allowing it to create programs based on a user's intentions that it can then reuse at a later date. Rival digital assistants do not yet have this functionality. Viv also supports diverse natural language understanding that lets users have a conversation with supporting services. Samsung could use the S8's new "AI key" as a shortcut to this function.