Samsung has changed CEOs for Viv Labs, the startup it acquired three years ago as part of its efforts to develop a digital assistant for its smartphones and tablets, The Information has learned.
Dag Kittlaus, co-founder and CEO of Viv Labs, left Samsung at the end of May to focus on a new project, he confirmed in an email. Larry Heck, a technology industry veteran who joined Samsung two years ago as a senior vice president, took over as CEO of Viv Labs in April, according to his Linkedin profile.
The switch raises the question of whether Samsung is trying a new approach to developing Bixby, the digital assistant it launched in 2017 as its answer to Apple, Google, and Amazon in the digital assistant market. Heck was previously an AI research director at Google and a distinguished engineer at Microsoft Research. Kittlaus said his departure doesn’t signal a change in strategy.
Kittlaus was CEO of Siri Inc. when Apple acquired the company in 2010. He left the following year to co-found Viv Labs with two other Apple employees, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham.
After seven years of working with Viv Labs and Bixby, Kittlaus said he was ready for a change. “I particularly enjoy the early stage of the innovation curve, and with Viv in good hands with Larry Heck and the rest of the team, I felt [it] was a good time,” Kittlaus said in the email.
Kittlaus said he is in ‘“exploratory mode” for a new project that involves AI but isn’t “necessarily” related to digital assistants.
Cheyer and Brigham are still at Samsung, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Samsung spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comment.