Samsung Acquires AI Assistant Startup Founded By The Creators Of Apple’s Siri

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Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 (Photo credit by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Samsung doesn’t want to get left behind in virtual personal assistant war.

Samsung announced on Wednesday that it’s acquiring Viv Labs, a hot artificial intelligent startup founded by the creators of Apple’s Siri personal assistant. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal was led by Samsung’s Global Innovation Center, which is the company’s Silicon Valley-based center focused on software and services. Samsung said the team would be working closely with Samsung’s phone unit, but would operate independently.

Viv was founded by Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, who both created the Siri personal assistant, as well as Chris Brigham, an early Siri employee. Apple bought Siri in 2010 to incorporate the personal assistant into their products, but the three left soon after to create Viv in 2012.

Viv ended up raising $30 million, according to PitchBook, and boasted high-profile tech investors like Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Jack Dorsey and Dustin Moskovitz.

For the past four years Viv has been building a personal assistant designed to openly connect with third-party developers to continuously add new features. So instead of having to move between different apps, users could simply interact with a single personal assistant on the phone. This is opposed to Apple’s more closed approach with Siri, though the iPhone maker has begun opening up Siri with a software development kit in the latest mobile operating system, iOS 10.

The competition in intelligent personal assistants has recently ramped up significantly. Just this week, Google announced new hardware with with its latest AI service, Google Assistant, deeply embedded: two phones, Pixel And Pixel XL, and a smart speaker, Google Home. Assistant is Google’s latest version of its virtual assistant for responding to users’ requests in a conversational manner. And Amazon has been trying to hire as many machine learning engineers as possible for its voice-based personal assistant, Alexa.

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Software has never been Samsung’s strong suit. In the past few years, the company has tried to tap into Silicon Valley’s software expertise through the Global Innovation Center, which is run by former Google executive David Eun. In 2014, the unit acquired smart home startup SmartThings, which sells a hardware hub but is also focused on the software backend for connecting a diverse range of smart home gadgets together. SmartThings continues to operate as an independent entity.

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