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Samsung announces Media Control API for Bixby-enabled smart TV apps

Samsung today announced the introduction of the Media Control API for streaming video and content companies to create their own apps for Samsung smart televisions. Initial partners include Netflix, HBO Now, Spotify, and Hulu. Starting this December, we are releasing a new voice media control APIs so that content partners can leverage Bixby to create voice enabled TV applications, said Samsung director of smart TV service business Pedro Freitas. The Bixby assistant has been rolled out for Samsung smart televisions over the course of the past year. The news was announced today at the Samsung Developer Conference being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, alongside Infinity Flex, Samsungs first foldable phone. Also announced were the One UI user interface for smartphones, new features for the SmartThings IoT app, and the Bixby Developer Center to help third-party developers create voice apps with Bixby. The Ambient Mode SDK was also announced today for developers to create experiences that flash on Smart TVs when theyre not in use. Today, ambient mode for Samsung smart televisions today can do things like display rotating art.

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.