Bixby does a lot of things. But, recently, some of Samsung’s must fascinating work has gone into Bixby Vision – which is a seemingly useful suite of image recognition tools. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bixby Vision – it is software built into your Samsung camera. It’s also found in Bixby Home, Gallery and Samsung Internet that gives you a deeper understanding of what you’re looking at. Vision uses object recognition to translate words, shop online or identify landmarks and businesses around. Bixby has been all about third-party services, which means that there’s very little reason to actually use Bixby over the apps.
Vision, however, is legitimately useful in that it provides a single place to access these functions, but it’s hard to get excited when Samsung’s main selling point comes down to convenience. Let’s give Samsung some credit though. They have improved Bixby’s Vision overall speed. With the Galaxy S8, you launched Bixby Vision through the camera, pointed it at something, and then chose what you wanted Bixby to do with that visual information after the fact. This time, Samsung streamlined the approach: You can swipe between those different Bixby modes before pointing the camera at an object. It might not sound like a profound change, but it definitely makes the Bixby experience feel more fluid.
Bixby Vision has a ton of modes – like the QR code scanner, but that’s not really advanced these days. Their new makeup mode, however, is quite impressive. Well, it’s impressive as far as technology goes, but not impressive because there are other apps on the market similar to it. Makeup mode works consistently well, but that can’t be said about everything else. In theory, live visual translations work well, but not as well as they should. It does a fine job translating small snippets of text – like store signs, but those aren’t always accurate because it relies on Google Translate. That said, it was enough to get by. Where Bixby can also fall short when it tries to translate lots of text at once.
Where Bixby is interesting is the ability to identify objects out in the world, so you can buy them. Maybe you see a pair of sneakers that you just have to have. Snap a picture with Bixby and find out where you can buy them. I say interesting because of the possibility of what this could do. You take a picture of an image and for the most part, Bixby understands what the image is. It will then offer results for what it thinks it is. Unfortunately, when you point it at an Apple Watch, for example, it may come back with results for things like a TV remote control. It’s not perfect, so it loses some points because of that.
Overall, Bixby isn’t great, but it isn’t awful either. Bixby as a voice assistant is decent because it is capable of performing actions that otherwise wouldn’t have required a few taps to execute. The strength of its voice controls alone make this a positive move for Samsung. That said, the technology needs to progress a lot faster than it has been in order for it to be competitive.