Samsung Acquires ‘Kngine’ Cairo-Based AI Startup to Improve Bixby

Samsung Research America recently announced its acquisition of Kngine — an artificial intelligence startup from Egypt. The startup, which was co-founded by two brothers Ashraf and Haytham ElFadeel was started in 2009 and had initially raised $775,000 from Sawari Ventures, based in Cairo, Egypt to help it run its operations.

Samsung Acquires 'Kngine' Cairo-Based AI Startup to Improve Bixby
[Ashraf and Haytham ElFadeel] Source: Forbes Middle East
Kngine had previously been described as an intelligent service that was capable of understanding questions, providing answers, as well as performing various actions. It is a service that could be applied in automating drive enterprise search, power voice interfaces, and customer service.

For it to build its knowledge graph, Kngine crawls through customer service logs, the world wide web, enterprise documents, and FAQs.

This knowledge graph comes into use when a question is asked. Before answering the question, the search engine first takes time to understand it, break it down to come up with sub-questions, and then crawls through its knowledge graph to find the right answers.

The answers are then ranked before being presented based on their accuracy.

Samsung and Vodafone Ventures

Prior to acquiring the search engine in whole, Samsung had made an initial investment in the startup through one of its subsidiaries Samsung Next. The investment was made as a joint venture with Vodafone Egypt Ventures.

Improve Bixby

In acquiring this startup, Samsung hopes to strengthen its AI mobile solutions, particularly Bixby which was launched alongside the Galaxy range of phones (S8 and S8+) in March 2017.

Bixby, which was acquired from Viv Labs, a few years ago has been unable to compete with Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. This has mostly been blamed on its inferior language support.

Additionally, it lacked a voice support function by the time it was being launched, which made it impossible for it to compete with the other digital assistants in the market.

Samsung is committed to making Bixby work and has shown this commitment by hiring Larry Heck (he worked on Cortana from Microsoft and Google Assistant in their development stages).

With its acquisition of Kngine, Bixby is expected to offer deeper and better integrations, and should with time become more robust, enabling it to compete on a similar level with the other digital assistants.

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