Samsung announces Galaxy Home smart speaker and big Bixby improvements

  • At the August 2018 Samsung Unpacked event, the company launched the Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker and plenty of Bixby improvements.
  • The improved Bixby is focused on personalization and conversational abilities.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Home is Samsung’s first foray into the smart speaker market.

At the Samsung Unpacked event on Thursday, company vice president Ji Soo Yi announced a plethora of new Bixby improvements. He also debuted the first Samsung smart speaker, the Galaxy Home.

On stage, Ji Soo ran through various functions that make Bixby a powerful assistant for performing day-to-day tasks like making restaurant reservations and hailing an Uber. The focus of Bixby is on personalization and conversational structure.

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After demonstrating how all the new Bixby features work, he then brought out nearly 200 Galaxy Home smart speakers, which filled the Barclays Center with music. With Bixby on a Galaxy Home, Samsung is finally fully throwing its hat into the smart home ring, competing with the likes of Google and Amazon for your virtual assistant needs.

Galaxy Home

The Galaxy Home has a unique design, at least compared to other smart speakers on the market. It looks a bit like an egg that’s propped up on four legs (referencing a facehugger pod from the Alien series or a charcoal grill is inevitable if you try to describe it).

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Samsung is emphasizing the music capabilities of the Galaxy Home above all else, which is why it’s partnering with Spotify for the launch. Ji Soo also took the time to explain how the Galaxy Home will “find” you in a room and direct the music towards you to compensate.

For example, if you are sitting more to the left of the Galaxy Home, you simply say, “Hey Bixby – SoundSteer,” and the music will shift to be centered more at you rather than throughout the room as a whole.

The usual smart speaker attributes are here as well, like being able to say “Hey Bixby” at any time and then asking a question. There are eight mics in the Galaxy Home which will make hotword detection more accurate.

The new and improved Bixby

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During Ji Soo’s demonstration, he made a reservation at a restaurant by first asking Bixby about restaurants in New York. Since Bixby knows that Ji Soo likes French food, a French restaurant was the first option on the list of results.

When he went to make a reservation for that restaurant through Bixby, the assistant already filled in all the information he would likely input himself, such as his phone number, the time, and the number of guests. It obtains this info from previous reservations he’s made.

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Ji Soo also requested an Uber ride through Bixby. However, to emphasize Bixby’s smarts, he simply said, “I need a ride to JFK.” Bixby found an Uber from his current location to John F. Kennedy airport and gave him an ETA and probable pricing, without Ji Soo having to say something more specific like, “I need an Uber to JFK airport.”

It should be noted that the applications of the services used to create these scenarios — Yelp for the restaurant and Uber for the ride — were not installed on the Note 9 used for the demo. Because Samsung has partnerships with these companies (and others), Bixby “just works,” regardless of your phone’s setup.

Of course, you’ll still need an Uber account for the ride-hailing to work, and that Uber account must be linked to Bixby.

As a quick aside, Ji Soo also pointed out that you could still say “Hey Google” to use Google Assistant on the Note 9.

Availability

Samsung didn’t announce any information about the Galaxy Home as far as pricing or availability goes. Ji Soo ended the presentation by simply saying we’ll find out more details at the Samsung Developer Conference.

All of the new Bixby improvements, however, are launching with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, so you’ll be able to take advantage of all the new Bixby capabilities on August 24, when that device hits shelves.

NEXT: Samsung Galaxy Watch is here: A smartwatch that ticks like an analog watch

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