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Samsung opens Bixby to third-party developers

Samsung today announced the launch of a toolkit for businesses and third-party developers to create voice apps compatible with intelligent assistant Bixby. The Bixby Developer Center will allow developers to create Bixby voice apps using AI-powered software to understand when to apply machine learning to automate tasks. Bixby is also expanding to speak Spanish, German, Italian, and French next year. The assistant currently only speaks English and Korean. A Bixby Marketplace is also in the works to sell and promote the work of third-party developers. Also today Samsung unveiled its first foldable smartphone the Infinity Flex, an API for developers to make smart TV apps with Bixby, and a series of updates for SmartThings, Samsungs IoT app. The announcements were made onstage at the Samsung Developer Conference being held November 7 and 8 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  The launch of Bixby Developer Studio was highly anticipated following comments by Samsung mobile division CEO DJ Koh to CNBC in September. Bixby is available in the Samsung S8 and S9 smartphones, smart televisions, the Samsung Family Hub smart refrigerator, and soon in the Galaxy Home smart speaker. Samsung has some catching up to do to create a third-party ecosystem around its intelligent assistant, and new features for Bixby was a main topic during the keynote speech at SDC. By comparison, more than 50,000 skills made primarily with the Alexa Skills Kit are in the Alexa Skills Store, and hundreds of Google Assistant actions have been made with Dialogflow or the Actions on Google platform since 2016. In addition to being slow to build a third-party ecosystem, Bixby, which first became available in early 2017, has been generally considered far behind competitors like Amazons Alexa and Google Assistant in its set of features and capabilities. However, as the maker of 500 million devices a year, Samsung is one of the largest home appliance makers on the planet, and its definition of success may differ greatly from other tech companies deploying AI assistants. Since launch, Bixby has expanded to include things like Bixby Vision for visual search and Bixby Makeup, which lets you try on makeup using augmented reality. The second iteration of Bixby, dubbed Bixby 2.0, made its debut one year ago at SDC and was first included in Galaxy Note9. As intelligent assistants continue to ascend to a more prominent part of their day, consumers will do what they always do: Theyll find their favorites and theyll stick with them, Kittlaus said. As long as those favorites continue to deliver value they become the default. Bixby 2.0 is made to understand context, deep link with apps, remember your preferences, and serve as part of Samsungs effort to move from a content-centric world to a context-centric world, as Samsung head of product innovation  Yoon C. Lee recently told VentureBeat. Bixby 2.0 builds upon the intelligence of Viv Labs, a company created by Siri cofounders Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus that Samsung acquired in 2017 for a reported $215 million. More to come

Bixby will speak German, French, Italian, and Spanish by 2019

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.