Bixby, Samsungs multi-platform voice assistant, will support German, French, Italian, and Spanish by the end of the year. Also forthcoming? A store for third-party apps — capsules, in Samsungs vernacular — called Bixby Marketplace. Game-changing technologies … are now commercially available. Breakthrough AI capabilities that seemed impossible are now within reach, DJ Koh, president of Samsungs mobile communications business said onstage at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco today. Our shared challenge is to use these shared breakthroughs from now into next. The progress update comes months after Samsung formally launched Bixby 2.0, an improved version of its digital assistant, alongside the Galaxy Note9. It gave developers greater control and customization over the way Bixby interacts with in-app interfaces and set the stage for deep integration of Viv, the technology platform Samsung acquired in 2016. In August, Samsung announced that Bixbys voice smarts have expanded to more than 200 markets globally, including Canada, the U.K., Australia, and South Africa. But despite the recent progress, Bixby is lagging behind its rival assistants, including Apples Siri, which is conversant in 21 tongues (not including regional variants); Microsofts Cortana, which can speak eight languages; and Googles Assistant, which as of this summer will be able to converse in five languages, with another four expected by the end of the year. Amazons Alexa currently only supports U.S. and U.K. English, in addition to German, Spanish, and a handful of others. The latest version of Bixby has better natural language processing, faster response times, and built-in noise reduction tech. Its also more conversational; if you ask it about upcoming concerts over Labor Day weekend, for example, itll remember the date range for future searches. Bixby is at the heart of the Galaxy Home, Samsungs upcoming smart speaker that will compete with the likes of Apples HomePod, Amazons Echo lineup, and the Google Home. Like its competitors, the Galaxy Home can play music, control smart home devices, and seamlessly switch music between supported smartphones, televisions, and entertainment systems. And it boasts premium hardware, including AKG speakers and an omnidirectional microphone array. Samsungs soon-to-be-released smart speaker isnt the only Bixby-powered device in its portfolio. In a bid to expand the voice assistants footprint, Samsung late last year announced that it would make Bixby available on a variety of devices — namely Samsungs Smart TV and Family Hub refrigerator product lineups. It also unveiled Project Ambiance, a prototype dongle with a chip and microphone that can be added to speakers or TVs.
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.