Gary Geunbae Lee, Head of Samsung Research AI Center, Samsung Electronics
Nowadays, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a leading global future technology trend. AI is so much at the center of the current technological revolution that it is expected to fundamentally alter not only the IT industry, but also the automobile, banking, and medical sectors. As a result, companies are making efforts to hire AI experts and are investing in research and other related business fields to ensure that they are fully prepared to integrate AI into products and services that can benefit people’s lives.
Samsung Electronics has long recognized the significance of AI and has been actively investing in the area. The company currently maintains seven AI centers in five different countries; South Korea (Seoul), the U.S. (Silicon Valley and New York), the U.K. (Cambridge), Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and Russia (Moscow). But the question remains – what is behind AI’s rapid evolution, and what forms is the technology expected to take going forward?
In a series of interviews, Samsung Newsroom sat down with leading experts from each of the AI centers around the world about the latest AI trends and what they believe the future holds for the technology. The first interviewee is Gary Geunbae Lee, Senior Vice President and Head of Samsung Research’s AI Center in Seoul. We asked him for his insights regarding AI development, and enquired about what makes Samsung’s approach to AI distinctive.
What is AI to Samsung?
AI is the realization of implementing the human capabilities of seeing, listening, decision making, moving and learning into computers,” said Gary Lee. “To think about it another way, AI is a combination of A (algorithms), B (big data), and C (computing power). These are the three key components that allow us to construct well-rounded artificial intelligence.”
Lee explained that Samsung Research’s AI Centers around the world conduct research that covers the full gamut of AI development, including computer vision, language understanding, data analytics, robotics and machine learning. Their research aims to bring the capabilities of AI closer to that of the human brain. “Compared to the time it took humanity to evolve to its current state, the history of AI is very short – only about 60 years,” noted Lee. “AI still isn’t quite there as far as fully realizing human actions, but I believe the technology will continue to improve quickly.”
Each of Samsung’s seven AI Centers spread across the world has its own specific fields of research. For example, the Cambridge AI Center is focused on On-Device AI and AI technology related to next-generation telecommunication networks, the Moscow Center is the Moscow Center is focusing on AI core technology such as data generation for machine learning and advanced deep learning, and the New York Center’s focus is centered on advanced research fields such as robotic manipulation. The Seoul Center works on language understanding, speech processing and big data and also coordinates the other centers, fostering collaboration and efficiency between them.
Samsung Seoul R&D Campus
Once AI products and services are ready for release, they are made available to consumers through various services, including Bixby. The majority of recent Samsung products come with Bixby already incorporated into the device, and Samsung is working hard to make all Samsung products AI-ready in the near future. “Once Samsung’s AI speaker is launched, it will enable seamless interconnection between smart devices,” affirmed Lee. “This will enable us to achieve our goal of implementing AI on all of our products to the goal of fostering environments led by connectivity.”
In 2018 the company revealed a software development kit (SDK) for Bixby and currently Bixby supports voice commands and translations in English, Chinese (Mandarin), German, Italian and Spanish. The diversity and global versatility of Samsung’s product portfolio is one of its key strengths, and Bixby will enable users around the world to connect their devices seamlessly.
When Samsung Products and AI Meet
“Samsung Electronics sells 500 million products every year. We strive each and every day to provide new services and features that are a fit for our devices in order to closely match our customers’ lifestyles,” noted Lee. One of the greatest strengths of the Samsung AI offering is the device integration; Lee highlighted the added value Samsung brings to users by assimilating a wide range of AI capabilities into the devices that have already become staples in users’ lives.
“For example, AI can recognize the ingredients in your refrigerator and automatically recommend recipes which it then displays on the refrigerator’s screen,” said Lee. “After you put the food in the oven, the AI-powered software sets the temperature and cooking time intelligently, according to the recipe.”
Samsung’s AI centers around the world focus on developing original technology such as natural language processing for Bixby and advanced research areas such as robotics; R&D teams at each business unit then work on merging and applying the new innovations to the products.
Teaching AI to Think for Itself
Despite its recent origin date, AI recognition technology has evolved considerably over time; in some areas, even, AI has proven to be more advanced when compared with the abilities of humans. Nevertheless, there are still some areas that AI needs to improve to become the ultimate assistance tool: performance and accuracy.
While current AI technology is capable of understanding spoken languages, there is still a long way to go until AI is able to fully process words within their context as a human does. In other words, what AI needs to develop is the comprehension of hypothetical reasoning, or the ability to read between the lines, of a user’s command or statement. There is also a need for more development regarding AI’s capability to taking different approaches to solve problems based on individual, or unpredictable, situations and daily scenarios. Future AI development currently rests on how fast improvements are made in these areas.
Samsung’s AI Philosophy
AI can provide a significant competitive edge for businesses – but if abused or mishandled, it can cause a social problem when not kept under control. Therefore, sustained ethical compliance is critical when conducting AI research. Samsung takes this responsibility very seriously and is constantly formulating ways to improve its practices and increase accountability.
“Although AI is meant to improve people’ lives, the possibility of its abuse cannot be ignored, so ethical compliance is very important,” stressed Lee. “There are three ethics that Samsung follows in regards to AI.” These are fairness, accountability and transparency. The development or use of AI must not lead to discrimination or prejudice, and the company assumes total responsibility for the technology and maintains transparency in its data collection and management process. In order to ensure that it keeps developing AI products and services that are worthy of consumers’ trust, Samsung became a member of the Partnership on AI (PAI) last year.
Privacy is another important part of Samsung’s AI policy. Since the more data an AI service is able to utilize, the more helpful it can be, all data harnessed must be processed transparently so that consumers feel safe when using Samsung products and services. “Samsung Electronics greatly prioritizes data security and privacy,” noted Lee. “We adhere to all the related laws and regulations on data security, including the GDPR1 in Europe. We are working towards implementing technology that detects security vulnerabilities in our AI codes to ensure our customers can use AI-enabled products and services safely. At the same time, we are incorporating AI into our security software to develop identification capabilities that will provide further peace of mind for users.”
So, what is the final goal Samsung has in mind when pursuing an AI-enabled future? From Lee’s perspective, it is totally consumer centric. “For me, AI is about adding value to consumers’ lives thanks to the integration of AI into their everyday products and services. Which this in mind, Samsung Research operates, and will continue to operate, under the conviction that user-based AI is always there, must be helpful, must be safe, must be user-centric, and, finally, must always be learning.”
“At Samsung, we always keep our AI principles front of mind,” Lee emphasized. “Firstly, all of our AI-based products and services continuously learn by themselves and become smarter over time, improving performance and usability while interacting with consumers. Secondly, Samsung AI is always there across a range of devices for whenever a customer needs it. Thirdly, Samsung is committed to developing AI technologies that are always safe and offer consumers peace of mind. Finally, Samsung’s AI always pursues user-centric customization to provide as helpful and as personalized service as possible.”
“These principles are the fundamental technological base for all the AI products and services of Samsung,” added Lee. “They enable Samsung to provide meaningful and tangible user-oriented experience and values with our AI offering.”