Why it matters to you
A Bixby-powered smart home speaker would go head to head with Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.
Not to be outdone by Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod, Samsung is reportedly developing an AI-equipped smart speaker of its own. According to the Korea Herald, the Seoul, Korea-based electronics giant’s upcoming, unannounced device will tap Bixby, Samsung’s omniscient digital assistant, to respond to questions and commands with voice.
Here’s everything we know so far.
Release date, pricing, and availability
According to the Korea Herald, Samsung’s Bixby-powered speaker could arrive as soon as this fall, and potentially launch alongside the Galaxy Note 8. However, a more recent report from the Wall Street Journal has thrown that timeline into question.
The project has been in the works for over a year, according to the Journal, which also mentions Samsung has code-named the device “Vega.” However, Bixby’s English language delay on the Galaxy S8 more than three months past the phone’s release means the assistant still isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, and Samsung will have to sort those issues out first. The article adds that the speaker’s hardware and features haven’t even been fully hashed out at this time.
Unfortunately, voice recognition problems reportedly stopped Samsung’s previous attempts to launch a smart speaker. The Journal says a product similar to Vega, code-named “Hive” was in development prior to the 2015 Mobile World Congress, but was ultimately shelved due to software issues.
The price remains a mystery, but Samsung’s speaker might be in line with the Echo Show. Amazon’s touchscreen- and camera-touting smart home device starts at $330.
Details are scarce right now, but Patently Apple points to a Samsung patent awarded in March as the groundwork for the company’s smart speaker. It shows an “audio device” with a narrow base stand, a tripod, and what appears to a rectangular display not dissimilar to Amazon’s Echo Show.
At the very least, a Bixby-powered Samsung speaker could go blow for blow with Amazon’s Echo lineup and Google’s eponymous Home speaker. The current iteration of Bixby can respond to questions about the weather, upcoming meetings, sports scores, and movie showtimes, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, it will perform actions like rotating misaligned photos, Samsung says, and play videos on nearby televisions.
Samsung’s Bixby speaker could support media casting, like Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Cast on Google Home. Already, Samsung’s Smart View app for iOS and Android lets you beam content from providers like YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and your phone’s local media; and channels from TV Plus, Samsung’s Fandango-powered streaming channels.
But a built-in touchscreen and camera are well within the realm of possibility, given Bixby’s other strengths.
When Samsung launched Bixby last year, it emphasized the assistant’s ability to collate information in a single, convenient stream. Bixby Home on the Galaxy S8 shows upcoming reminders and social media updates, and supports third-party services like CNN, Spotify, Flipboard, Facebook Foursquare, and Twitter. Eventually, Samsung says it’ll be able to learn your routine and update to reflect how you use your phone throughout the day.
Samsung’s Bixby speaker will likely support reminders, too, much like Bixby on the Galaxy S8. They’re built into the Galaxy S8’s native apps, and let you attach media like videos, websites, photos, and messages. You can set a specific time you’d like to see a reminder, or even a specific location. When the conditions are met, the reminder will appear in the form of a notification you can dismiss, snooze, or check off.
And if Samsung’s Bixby speaker is equipped with a camera, it might be able to distinguish between the physical objects in front of it, like Amazon’s Echo Show. It recognizes four distinct categories, including places, text, images, and retail products, and serves up relevant suggestions to the object at hand. If you hold a bag of Twizzlers up to the Galaxy S8’s camera, for instance, it will show similar candy from one of the supported online stores.
Updated: Added a report indicating that the speaker’s release timing, specifications, and features are still being determined.