Samsung Electronics has acquired South Korean artificial intelligence (AI) startup Fluenty, which specialises in conversational AI. The company plans to integrate Fluenty's services to upgrade its own voice recognition platform, Bixby. No financial details related to the transaction have been disclosed.
Set up in 2015, Fluenty provides an AI-based chat platform, which responds to queries using machine learning capabilities. The firm has around 10 employees who are mostly former developers at Korea’s two largest search giants, Naver and Daum. This is the first Korean AI startup acquired by Samsung, which mainly invests in and acquires foreign tech companies.
Fluenty unveiled a smartphone app named “AI-based Recommendation Service” in the US in 2015. The app recommends appropriate responses to users based on machine learning. For instance, when someone sends a message saying “How about a movie this weekend?” the app recommends replies such as “Yes. Which movie are you planning for?” The Korean version of the app was launched in 2016. Fluenty’s app supports most messenger services, including Kakao Talk, Telegram, Line, WhatsApp, Facebook and short message service.
“Samsung is now aggressively expanding its AI capabilities by taking over related manpower and organizations, as it views that the technology will be applied to all areas in the future. The recent takeover is seen as a good sign for other local startups, as Samsung appears to be willing to buy any company -- whether local or foreign -- if they have advanced AI-related original technologies,” said Lee Byung-tae, a professor at KAIST College of Business.
Samsung recently integrated its research arms Digital Media & Communications Research Center and Software Center. Samsung named the combined center as Samsung Research and formed an AI center under it to strengthen advanced research related to artificial intelligence. Now with the acquisition of Fluenty, Samsung plans to further strengthen its AI technologies. Samsung is also learnt to be working with South Korean chat giant Kakao to sync their respective AI platforms, Bixby and Kakao I.
The South Korean giant last year acquired US startup Viv Labs, an AI voice assistant firm founded by Dag Kittlaus who co-founded Siri, Apple's AI virtual assistant. Following the acquisition, Samsung unveiled Bixby in April. The Company said Bixby will improve its own language understanding capabilities over time from consumer use. Samsung aims to apply the AI technology into all its home appliances by 2020.