Samsung’s Bixby, now smarter, arrives on fridges – CNET


Samsung’s hosting its fourth annual developer conference this week in San Francisco.

Shara Tibken/CNET

Your appliances are about to get a lot smarter. 

Samsung on Wednesday said the second generation of its Bixby digital assistant will be coming to its various non-mobile devices including its smart TVs and its Family Hub refrigerator. Bixby 2.0, Samsung’s answer to the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, is smarter than its first version, with deep-linking capabilities and improved natural language capabilities. It can better recognize individual users and better predict peoples’ needs. 

The update integrates predictive technology from Viv, which Samsung has said would help the software work with third-party apps. Also on Wednesday at the Samsung Developer Conference, the company announced a new SDK for developers to make apps that work with Bixby. 

Along with Bixby 2.0, Samsung also said it’s partnering with Google to bring augmented reality to users of the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8. Developers will be able to use the ARCore SDK to make AR apps for Samsung devices. 

Samsung has also announced the 360 Round, a new 17-lens camera that can be used to develop and stream high-quality 3D content for virtual reality. 

And the company said it’s uniting its various internet of things services — SmartThings, Samsung Connect and its ARTIK processor platform — into one united system called SmartThings Cloud. 

Samsung’s fourth annual developers conference runs this week in San Francisco. The event, which started off small at a San Francisco hotel, last year expanded to Moscone Center West, where Apple previously held its developer conference. 

Samsung has had difficulty generating enthusiasm for many of its software products. The company leans on Google’s Android software to run the vast majority of its smartphones and tablets, while its own Tizen operating system has struggled to gain a foothold. Meanwhile, Samsung has scrapped many of the services it’s created, like the Samsung Media Hub and Milk Video.

But it keeps trying. Samsung introduced Bixby on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus earlier this year and has been pushing SmartThings. It’s also partnered with Facebook’s Oculus on virtual reality for mobile devices. For Samsung, getting developers to create unique apps for its broad range of products — from its televisions to its smartwatches — is key.

Bixby 2.0

Since introducing Bixby earlier this year, Samsung has vowed it would eventually come to all of its products, including its appliances and televisions. Last month, Yoon Boo-Keun, the head of Samsung’s electronics business, said in an interview that integration was “already in full swing.”

Bixby acts as a new interface to control your phone, but it will be different for Samsung’s appliances and televisions, Yoon told Süddeutsche Zeitung at the IFA electronics show. For Samsung’s connected refrigerators, Bixby will be able to recommend recipes based on what you have in your kitchen, the newspaper said. For TVs, it would learn what shows you normally watch and automatically play them when you turn on the television, he said. 

Viv, meanwhile, is intended to handle everyday tasks for you, like ordering flowers, booking hotel rooms and researching weather conditions, all in response to natural language commands. The creators — who included one of Siri’s makers, Dag Kittlaus — claim their software understands your requests and engages in conversation with you to fulfill them, instead of making you speak formulated commands like other AI assistants do. Samsung bought Viv to improve its voice assistant, and Bixby 2.0 is the first version to use the technology. 

Samsung’s new Bixby SDK will be available to “select developers” and through a private beta program, with general availability arriving “in the near future,” it said. 

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