Samsung at CES 2019: Smarter Bixby, robots, iTunes and flashy new TVs

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Along with new TVs, computers and home appliances, Samsung unveiled four robots to help with things like health monitoring. 

James Martin/CNET

It’s CES and that means the introduction of Samsung’s newest electronics. Think: lots of TVs, home appliances and even some cute robots. And underlying all of that is a smarter Bixby digital assistant. 

Samsung may be best known for its Galaxy smartphones, but TVs, laptops and appliances like refrigerators and washing machines are a big part of its product lineup. CES is where we hear about its latest and greatest electronics, and this year was no exception. Samsung even saved a surprise announcement for the end of its Monday press conference: four robots that do things like monitor health and help people walk. 

“We have a bold vision to take a half of billion devices we sell every year and make them connected and intelligent,” Samsung co-CEO HS Kim said during Monday’s press conference.

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At the heart of its announcements was Bixby, the digital voice assistant that rivals Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Executive after executive touted what you’ll be able to do with Bixby in your various devices, from searching your iTunes library to getting recommendations for the best wash cycle in your Samsung washing machine. 

All of those smarts will boost the 500 million devices Samsung sells each year. Over 70 percent of Americans have at least one Samsung device and more than 25 percent have at least three, Yoon Lee, a Samsung senior vice president, said during Monday’s press conference. That gives Samsung a huge potential market for Bixby. 

“With AI and other emerging technologies, we are hard at work improving those devices, helping them to better meet consumer needs and improve their daily lives,” Lee said. 

Bixby and new AI smarts

Samsung has been pushing its Bixby voice assistant in everything from its smartphones to its appliances. It debuted on the Galaxy S8 in 2017 and expanded last year into all of Samsung’s smart TVs. This year, Samsung said Bixby will be embedded in its 2019 QLED and premium TVs, and smart appliances like refrigerators, washers, as well as air conditioners, mobile devices, AI speakers and more. 

See also

At CES 2019, Apple finally sets iTunes, AirPlay loose

Samsung shrinks The Wall MicroLED modular TV down to 75 inches at CES

Samsung’s 2019 TVs will work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

Samsung is using premium design to lure you to its laptops

Samsung pushes Bixby into robots, cars at CES 2019

And Bixby is expanding to cars and robots. The digital assistant will help people manage their health routine on the Samsung Bot Care robot or check to see if their car’s gas tank is full. Apps like Google Maps and Gmail will soon work with the digital assistant, and Bixby will be able to do even more on Samsung’s smart refrigerators and washing machines, like searching inside iTunes and on live TV.

Bixby also will be part of Samsung’s new “Digital Cockpit” for cars. Bixby will let drivers remotely check how much gas they have before going on a long road trip or set the car temperature before heading out for the day. Using onboard cameras, the new Digital Cockpit recognizes specific drivers and passengers and sets up the car’s personal space accordingly — adjusting the display preferences, seat height, lighting and queuing up favorite playlists. Passengers can even use personalized screens on the rear seats and connect to In-vehicle Samsung DeX to get work done on-the-go. 

Personal robots

In a surprise move, Samsung on Monday unveiled four robots to help with various tasks. It brought one of them, the Samsung Bot Care, on stage to demonstrate its health-tracking capabilities. The bot talked to Samsung executives, instructing them on what to do to measure their vitals. Samsung’s Lee placed his finger on the robot’s screen to take his blood pressure. 

The Samsung Bot Care can measure health vitals. 

James Martin/CNET

“It’s a partner for everyday tasks to help keep you healthy,” Gary Lee, Samsung senior vice president and head of the company’s AI efforts, said during the press conference. “Family members … can check on your wellbeing even from far away.”

Along with Samsung Bot Care, there will be the Samsung Bot Air, Samsung Bot Retail and Samsung GEMS. The Bot Air uses sensors to detect the precise source of pollution and purify air. The Bot Retail personalizes the retail experience and streamlines order and other tasks. GEMS, which appears to be worn on one’s legs, assists with walking, helps improve mobility and helps athletes better train. 

“We’re harnessing the best of Samsung hardware, software and AI to help address emerging societal changes through technology,” Lee said.

Bigger — and smaller — Samsung TVs

Some of Samsung’s biggest announcements of CES revolve around its TVs. Last year, Samsung introduced The Wall, a 146-inch modular “TV” with MicroLED screen technology. Micro-LED competed with OLED for terrific picture quality and outstanding brightness, but promises less burn-in.

This year, Samsung introduced smaller TV sizes with the same MicroLED screen tech. The new 75-inch modular TV will first be geared at commercial uses but will also make its way to consumers. 

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