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Samsung opens its Bixby assistant to developers

Samsung has been suffering through a lot of catch-up in the voice assistant race, but at its annual developer conference the company placed a major emphasis on how its expanding the scale and effectiveness of its Bixby assistant. The company announced that Bixby would be coming to more devices and more languages with third-party developers finally gaining access to building functionality for the AI assistant. For the first time we are opening Bixby to all of you, our developers, Samsung EVP Eui-Suk Chung announced onstage. The company is pledging to bring the assistant to watches, refrigerators, tablets, washing machines and more, and in the coming months will be adding support for five additional languages. While these promises seemed to sit a bit further down the line, the company was ready to talk about their Bixby developer kit during the keynote. The company announced the release of the Bixby Developer Studio, a set of dev tools thats way ahead of the other guys, Viv Labs CEO/ Siri co-founder Dag Kittlaus told the crowd. The company will also be introducing Bixby Marketplace, a home for users to discover the new functionality of their voice assistant. Bixby may have a long road ahead to catch up with other companies, but third-party integrations are something that none of the major voice assistant platforms have nailed. If Samsung can continue to invest in the platform and court developers with sophisticated tools, they may have better luck in gaining third-party integrations that feel more ancillary.

Samsung opens Bixby to third-party apps and devices

Samsung is going to start letting app developers plug into Bixby, and hardware companies will be able to build the voice assistant into their products, too. In the year-and-a-half since Bixby launched, Samsung has already brought the assistant to phones, fridges, TVs, and more, but theyve all been Samsungs own devices. With todays news, other companies will be able to start building it into their own hardware as well, either as an alternative to Amazons Alexa and Googles Assistant — or, more likely, as an additional option for users who want to live in Samsungs ecosystem. Consumers may have more reason to embrace Bixby in the future, too, since third party developers will start being able to build services that plug into it. Its not entirely clear what to expect or what theyll look like — Samsung showed a demo of Bixby pulling up the various interfaces youd need to book a hotel stay — but Samsung is promising to make Bixby so open that developers will be able to make anything that Samsung itself could. Dag Kittlaus, CEO of Samsung-owned Viv Labs, says its the most powerful assistant toolkit ever made. Way ahead of the other guys, Kittlaus says. And its not even close. Samsung also plans to launch Bixby in a few new languages in the coming months, including German, Italian, and French. Itll also launch Spanish localized for Spain and English localized for the UK; those two languages are already available, but only with US localization. Smart assistants as a whole still arent all that smart, but Bixby in particular has been seen as among the weaker options. It was criticized at launch, and owners of some of Samsungs newest phones still complain about a dedicated Bixby button that they cant remap. Samsung is moving quickly — much quicker than Apple, for instance — to build out what Bixby is capable of doing by granting deep access to third parties. Its not clear how itll distribute these third-party Bixby features or how itll ensure that theyre safe and functional. But if it works out, Bixby could start looking a lot more like Alexa, which has more than 50,000 third-party skills.