Artificial Intelligence

Samsung Bixby 2.0: Cheat sheet

When Samsung launched its Bixby digital assistant with the Galaxy S8, some basic features were missing, and they were slow to arrive. On top of that, Bixby was installed alongside the well-established Google Assistant, prompting questions as to whether it was really necessary to add another digital assistant to an already crowded market.

Samsung may have realized Bixby’s shortcomings as a digital assistant, but with Bixby 2.0 the Korean tech giant is hardly backing down. Bixby 2.0 is the lead element of Samsung’s bid to build its own ecosystem of connected devices and services.

The new Bixby strategy is vastly different from what came before it, which is why we’ve chosen to publish this article to accompany our original Bixby smart person’s guide, which focuses more on its digital assistant features. This Bixby 2.0 cheat sheet is a quick introduction to the latest version of Samsung’s digital assistant and its new ecosystem. This guide will be updated periodically as Bixby continues to evolve with Samsung’s IoT strategy.

SEE: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)

Executive summary

  • What is Bixby 2.0? Bixby 2.0 is the latest version of Samsung’s digital assistant. The new version will focus more on Samsung’s IoT and connected tech strategy, as evidenced by the announcement of the new Galaxy Home Bixby-powered smart speaker.
  • Why does Bixby 2.0 matter? Samsung is aiming to create an ecosystem like the one powered by Amazon Alexa. Whether it will be able to compete remains to be seen, but Samsung’s wide range of appliances and products will give it an early advantage.
  • Who does Bixby 2.0 affect? Bixby 2.0 will affect Samsung customers as well as developers who want to integrate their products with the Bixby ecosystem. Samsung has stated it plans to make Bixby 2.0 “open” by releasing an SDK and an API in late 2018, which means it will likely affect hardware manufacturers considering which ecosystems to integrate with as well.
  • When will Bixby 2.0 be released? Bixby 2.0 is publicly available, but only on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The Bixby 2.0 SDK has begun an initial closed, invitation-only beta test, which Samsung plans to open to more users over the next few months.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

What is Bixby 2.0?

Whereas Bixby’s first incarnation was as a digital assistant for the Galaxy S8 series of Samsung smartphones, Bixby 2.0 is designed to be part of a full Samsung smart device ecosystem.

A blog post by Samsung executive vice president for R&D Eui-Suk Chung outlined the vision the company has for Bixby 2.0 as “the control hub of your device ecosystem, including mobile phones, TVs, refrigerators, home speakers, or any other connected technology you can imagine.”

SEE: Special report: Harnessing IoT in the enterprise (free PDF)

With that in mind, Samsung plans to add Bixby integration to all of the smart products it produces, and then some. Going hand-in-hand with Bixby 2.0 and Samsung’s lineup of connected devices is Project Ambience, which uses a dongle that plugs into third-party devices to make them connect to the Bixby ecosystem.

Samsung’s newest endeavor seems to be moving tech into what it calls the “intelligence of things era,” and it sees Bixby 2.0 as the primary interface in that era. As evidence for Bixby’s shift from digital assistant to smart device interface, Samsung announced the Galaxy Home, an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker that is powered by Bixby.

According to statements given to CNBC by DJ Koh, CEO of Samsung’s mobile unit, the Galaxy Home’s release will be tied tightly to the release of an SDK and an API for Bixby. Samsung’s goal, Koh said, is to turn Bixby into an open ecosystem featuring lots of third-party apps.

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Why does Bixby 2.0 matter?

Make no mistake: Samsung’s AI-driven, connected focus for Bixby 2.0 is putting it in direct competition with Amazon’s Alexa, which is the dominate force in IoT connectivity in the market today.

Considering the huge share of the market that Alexa has, it’s easy to look at a face-to-face competition between Amazon and Samsung for AI-driven smart home products as one-sided in Amazon’s favor. However, that doesn’t acknowledge the large array of internet-connected devices that Samsung already produces, and the others that will benefit from Bixby integration.

So while Bixby will have a bit of an uphill climb to make it a contender for smart home hub dominance, it’s entirely possible that Samsung will be able to close the gap with Amazon, not to mention with Google and Apple, by sheer virtue of its hardware offerings and projects like Ambience.

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Who does Bixby 2.0 affect?

Bixby 2.0 is available, but it has yet to affect all Samsung customers. As of now Bixby 2.0 is only available on the Galaxy Note 9, with other devices still running some version of 1.0.

Once Bixby 2.0 is more widely available with the release of the Galaxy Home and the Bixby SDK and API, it will affect not only Samsung device users but also anyone considering smart home or smart office products. It will be one more ecosystem to consider when deciding between Amazon and Google.

That’s not to mention developers and third-party manufacturers, who will have the opportunity to add Bixby support and integration using the SDK that is still in closed beta. It remains to be seen how easily Bixby will work alongside other ecosystems like Alexa, meaning it’s unknown if devs and manufacturers will have the luxury of adding support for multiple ecosystems, or if they will be forced to go the Bixby-only route.

In addition, developers and third-party manufacturers will have the opportunity to add Bixby support and integration once the SDK and API leave closed beta. It remains to be seen how easily Bixby will work alongside other ecosystems like Alexa; this means it’s unknown if developers and manufacturers will have the luxury of adding support for multiple ecosystems, or if they will be forced to go the Bixby-only route.

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When will Bixby 2.0 be released?

Bixby 2.0 has been released but only on the Galaxy Note 9. Samsung hasn’t said when Bixby 2.0 will be available on other Samsung smartphones and smart devices, but with the rollout of the Galaxy Home expected to be in November 2018 it’s possible Bixby 2.0 will come to other smart devices and phones then.

The Bixby 2.0 SDK has been released to a few select developers, and Samsung said it will be inviting more as testing continues. Developers interested in testing it out ahead of the public release can head over to Samsung’s Bixby SDK and API beta signup page and hope they snag an invite.

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Image: Samsung

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