I really hope the weather cooperates this weekend. I already picked out the twins' outfits for their birthday party and I don't need any more surprises!

“Ask Big Sky, is it going to rain in New York this weekend?”
Yes, it almost certainly will. In New York between Friday and Sunday, rain is most likely on Friday when there’s a 84% chance.

Unless you live in a state with consistent weather like Arizona or California, your plans for the day can change drastically with little notice. If you're like millions of people that always check the weather to stay ahead, there’s a much more informative and dynamic weather solution called Big Sky Weather waiting for you in the Bixby Marketplace.

Big Sky Weather tells you more than just the current temperature and conditions for the day: this Bixby capsule can provide local and long-range weather forecasts, reports, and maps for the location associated with your smart device, or for another area if you're curious.

Add the Big Sky Weather capsule in the Bixby Marketplace and simply say:

"Ask Big Sky for the weather."
"Ask Big Sky if it will rain tomorrow at 2 pm."
"Ask Big Sky for wind speed in four hours."

Big Sky Weather was featured at Samsung's Developer Conference (SDC) this year, and its creator, Steven Arkonovich, is a Bixby Premier Developer—despite the fact that he's not a software engineer. As a professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Steven decided he wanted to build voice experiences and taught himself to code and write his own development framework; he's an exemplar of the notion that there are no barriers to becoming a Bixby developer. We sat down with Steven to learn more about his experience so far.

Premier Developer and Big Sky Weather creator, Steven Arkonovich on a panel at SDC19.

A new approach to voice interfaces for weather

Steven created Big Sky Weather because he didn't want to listen to a full weather report just to hear a particular piece of information. His idea was to allow every user to decide whether to listen to a detailed report or just the current temperature, humidity, chance of precipitation, etc.—all by voice.

Steven believes that the voice space is still in its early days, similar to the way cell phones were first only thought of as things to make calls but are now viewed as an extraordinary and indispensable general resource for doing all kinds of things. Voice assistants will soon transform into a necessity as well.

"We'll get to the point where users will be able to talk to any device they interact with, much like we now expect to interact by touch with most things that have a screen."

Developing for Bixby

Steven was open with his journey on developing his weather experience through the Bixby Premier Developer Program. First, he found the Space Resort walkthrough to be the most helpful tech doc on bixbydevelopers.com, especially once he got the basics of the capsule running. He was then able to leverage many of the walkthrough's listed resources to help understand the slightly more advanced features of a capsule. He also returned to Roger Kibbe's introductory videos several times to get more insight. These were the main resources that got him from having no idea how to approach capsule building to creating a working prototype.

“The original idea of Big Sky Weather was to present the user with a highly customizable weather report—that the user should have the ability to choose how detailed a report they wanted."

In the first version of Big Sky Weather for Bixby, he was able to use follow-up questions and conversation drivers to prompt the user if they wanted more details. He decided on the best Bixby Views components and layouts by trying to follow a Bixby design best practice—namely, that the most important information should be displayed prominently at the top. For example, the main component for Big Sky Weather is a compound card with a large background image. That image varies according to current weather conditions, so its placement in a prominent place was important.

Steven talks all things Big Sky with the Bixby team at SCD19.

Presently, Steven says the Big Sky Weather capsule isn't using the video player available in Bixby Views, though he definitely has plans for it. He believes it makes extensive use of viv.time and viv.geo libraries, both of which are—in his words—amazing. For example, he says, on other platforms, it took a tremendous amount of backend work to parse time requests (three days from now, Wednesday at 3:00 pm), but the provided time library makes all that work surprisingly easy.

One of Steven's favorite features in Bixby Studio (which he loves overall, including the simulated testing environment) is the debug console, which helps developers easily see the arrangement of the capsule flow and highlights any errors along the path.

The Bixby difference

Steven also wants developers to know there are key technical differences between Bixby and other voice platforms.

"The coding paradigm is, obviously, the main difference. A lot of the effort goes into modeling your data instead of writing lines of code. Once you get used to this, it's intuitive, and in fact, you end up with a smaller codebase than other platforms. This is a big difference, and in many ways, an advantage."

The professor's key takeaway

Steven literally taught himself how to code just so he could develop a top-notch voice experience, and he succeeded wildly. Anyone can teach themselves to be a developer, and with Bixby, there are no barriers to becoming one. Coding for Bixby is easier to learn than ever. There are no excuses: it's time to get with the Bixby Premier Developer Program, so reach out to the BixbyDevRel@samsung.com team to learn how you too can join today!


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