Almost four months after Samsung's Galaxy S8 went on sale, its marquee feature is finally making an appearance.
Bixby, Samsung's artificial intelligence engine that will answer spoken questions and that can identify landmarks and objects photographed with the S8's camera, is now launching an Australian version.
Updates to the app are being rolled out as you read this, not as a firmware update to all S8 owners but only to people who happen to open the next-to-useless Bixby placeholder app (basically just a rebadged version of the Flipboard app) that Samsung put on the S8 when it didn't have Bixby ready in time.
You can see the problem there. Galaxy S8 users who want Siri-like voice controls have had to use Google Assistant until now, meaning they're unlikely to open Bixby to be prompted to upgrade it.
Samsung sees that problem, too, and says it will start notifying Galaxy S8 owners of the upgrade through channels outside of the Bixby app itself.
Artificial intelligence platforms are the next big battleground in mobile devices. Google is investing heavily in its platform, Google Assistant, and Samsung is taking its AI platform so seriously that it has even dedicated an entire button to it: that button on the left hand side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, that you can short press to call up Bixby's (currently barely populated) news service/reminders page, or that you can long press to call up . . .
Well, to call up nothing at the moment, but when the Bixby updates roll out a long press of that button should open up an Australia version of the voice-recognition engine, one that officials say will be able to recognise even the most bogan Australian accent, and that will eventually speak back in an Australian accent, too.
Getting Bixby to talk like an Australian may take a couple more updates, however, officials say.
A Bixby that can understand American accents was released in a US in mid July. Its launch in Australia, as well as to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, roughly co-incides with the launch of Samsung's flagship business phone, the Galaxy Note 8, which is due to be launched here in New York on Wednesday.
Though Samsung has said nothing about whether Bixby will be on the Note 8 when it launches, it's reasonably safe to say the phone should be Bixby-enabled from the very first day, just the way Samsung initially intended with the Galaxy S8.
But getting Bixby to work has obviously been harder than expected, and it's still unclear to what extent Samsung has managed to incorporate the exciting AI technology it acquired when it purchased Viv Labs in 2016.
Viv, which was designed by the original creators of Siri, is said to write its own algorithms in real time in order to answer complex voice queries. There's no mention of Viv-like technology in today's software update, which seems to be just about recognising Australian accents, but lets hope it's on the list for another software update in the near future.