At our AI Summit as part of DLD last month, Samsung NEXT president David Eun sat down for a conversation with Viv Labs founder Dag Kittlaus. Topics of the conversation include where artificial intelligence stands now, how Viv Labs set out to make AI more accessible, and why the company decided to be acquired by Samsung last year.
AI has become a bit of a buzzword, as Eun pointed out. Kittlaus describes artificial intelligence as “machines that exhibit intelligent behaviors or machines that can accomplish things that previously only humans could.”
Already that includes doing things like landing planes, driving card and being able to talk to humans, but the proliferation of AI technology is “going to be disrupting all sorts of industries,” he said.
Kittlaus is a veteran of the AI world, and has seen how quickly things have changed just over the past decade. He founded Siri in 2007, at a time when many had given up on the idea of artificial intelligence.
“At that time, it was still the AI winter,” Kittlaus said. “[T]here was real enthusiasm about [AI] decades ago and it ended up being overhyped. There really wasn’t a lot of true progress. A lot of people had lost faith.”
After Siri was acquired by Apple and became the technology behind that company’s smart voice assistant, things began to change however. “Within a few years of that, suddenly, there was this massive influx of AI interest and commercialization around some of the research,” he said.
After leaving Apple, Kittlaus and team believed there was more work to do. They believed that to move the AI market forward, they would need to make the technology accessible to everyone.
“Every 10 years there’s a new paradigm that comes along, starting with web browsers. Every company in the world had needed to make a website. Then, the mobile revolution came with apps,” Kittlaus said. “We think that there is an opportunity in AI now where… anyone in the world can teach an AI system new capabilities and scale it in the same way that app stores have proliferated.”
From a consumer standpoint, AI is most commonly seen in a growing number of smart assistants that live in mobile phones or take advantage of voice capabilities in devices around the home.
“Today, you’ve got some usefulness in all the products across all the different companies but I don’t know how many people would say, ‘I can’t live without this.’” Kittlaus said. The ultimate goal is to reach a point where people start to wonder how they got along without AI in their lives.
It’s still early days for artificial intelligence, which is also why there’s such a great opportunity in the market. “I don’t think that there’s going to be 10,000 assistants out there. I think this will be similar to search in a way that there will be only a few winners,” Kittlaus said.
In its effort to become one of those winners, Viv Labs joined Samsung about a year ago. In explaining his rationale for being acquired again, Kittlaus said, “It’s a different market now than it was in 2007. Every major top tech company in the world is now putting billions of dollars in this exact idea. We feel like we can finish the job with Samsung.”
For Samsung NEXT, the acquisition fit squarely in with our mission of identifying, creating, and investing in breakout software and services that complement the hardware Samsung is already known for.
“When we talk about building, growing and scaling… we will meet you wherever you are. If you have a concept or an idea we can help turn it into a product. If you have a product, we can help turn it into a company. And if you have a company we can help you scale it globally,” Eun said of Samsung NEXT’s mission.
But Viv Labs is just one example of how Samsung makes acquisitions to give technology some global scale. As Eun notes, Samsung NEXT does its own product development internally and also invests in startups.
To date, the group has invested in more than 60 companies and acquired a dozen to grow software and services capabilities within Samsung, but we continue to be on the lookout for startups and entrepreneurs building AR/VR, IoT, blockchain and AI technologies.
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