Over the course of 2018, Samsung unveiled a variety of developer tools to enable individuals and companies to create voice experiences for Bixby, the company’s voice assistant. In the summer of 2019, Samsung went a step further, releasing an all-new Marketplace designed to facilitate user discovery of these voice experiences on all manner of Samsung devices. Together, these developments herald a new opportunity for developers to get involved with voice technology.
After all, Samsung has half a billion devices roll off the manufacturing line each year. As long as Bixby is on-device, developers creating for the platform will instantly have one of the largest hardware install bases anywhere in the world from which to serve users.
Samsung’s dominance within the smartphone market—representing roughly 350 million of these devices—is especially important to consider. Samsung is not only #1 in the smart- phone market, but it is also #1 in the TV and digital appliances market globally—Samsung has already announced that a new marketplace just for Bixby Capsules on Smart TVs will open to third-party developers. Bixby will not just be on a large quantity of devices, but rather, Bixby will be on a large quantity of the consumer’s most used devices.
One thing we have learned, with the meteoric rise in popularity and resulting ubiquity of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and which we’re seeing again with Google Assistant, is that it pays to be early to the party.
Developers who were among the first to create Alexa skills have seen the best results. Nick Schwab, one of Amazon’s earliest-anointed “Alexa Champions,” carved out a revenue stream from Alexa development which allowed him to buy his own Tesla. Early movers within Amazon’s ecosystem have been able to lay claim to the most desirable invocation terms, establish ground-floor relationships with Amazon personnel, and create a competitive advantage for themselves.
This same opportunity exists within Samsung’s ecosystem today, for those paying attention. The seeds are planted for Bixby to blossom in a path similar to Alexa’s. It’s precisely why we’re seeing developers who have already seen success in Amazon’s ecosystem embrace what Samsung is doing with Bixby—who knows this landscape better than them?
This white paper will examine some initial success stories involving Bixby, sharing lessons learned, strengths in Samsung’s young ecosystem, and some challenges ahead.
We’ll also take a look at what the Bixby team has done to enable podcasting and audio content discovery within the ecosystem, as well as the ongoing success of the Bixby Premier Developers Program, now in its second year.
Ultimately, Samsung’s participation in the voice/AI landscape strengthens the marketplace, cultivates sharper competition, attracts more players into the space as developers, and speeds progress. Bixby is off to an arguably stronger start than Alexa in its first six months of offering widely available developer tools, and we’re all excited to see what Samsung can accomplish over the full calendar year of 2020.
As of 2020 here is a list of categories, total number of capsules, and major brands the Bixby Marketplace has filled for it's millions of users the world over.
Arts and lifestyle (31)
Business and Finance (17)
Education and Reference (107)
Food and Drink (18)
Games and Fun (272)
Health and Fitness (67)
Movies and TV (10)
Music and audio (123)
News and Magazines (20)
Smart Home (15)
Travel and Transportation (15)
Major brands with Bixby Capsules:
The History Channel
The Weather Channel
No stranger to the world of voice tech, Ilarna had created her first voice apps in 2017 while finishing up her degree at the University of Kent. She did so well with them that her success springboarded the launch of her company, Adassa Innovations, and earned her newfound visibility as a developer.
Light a fire
Ilarna Nche’s success as a voice developer landed her a full-time role with one of the most prominent voice app development companies, Matchbox.io.
While Nche’s voice experience “Music Bop Adventures” has done so well on Amazon Alexa that Amazon awarded Nche with a $10,000 cash prize back in 2018, she notes that adoption of different types of voice experiences is a differentiator between these two young voice assistant ecosystems.
“I’ve built voice apps in a range of categories. My productivity-based Bixby Capsules are being used more frequently than my game capsules. I wonder if this is because of the type of device being used. Maybe the results would differ if the capsules were used on a different device, such as a television, for example,” Nche notes.
Like many others, Ilarna Nche was impressed by the scope of Bixby’s reach, along with the ambition of Samsung’s team to create a voice assistant ecosystem that could serve these many different types of users.
“The biggest strength of Bixby and Samsung’s ecosystem is the consumer base. Samsung is a global company with millions of consumers all around the world. They are pioneers in everyday household products ranging from televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, smartphones, and tablets. Because of this, they have the potential to introduce Bixby to a large number of consumers and therefore integrate it into everyday life.”
One of the most successful developers for voice tech is not a developer at all, at least in any traditional sense. Steven Arkonovich is a mild-mannered professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College, located in Portland, Oregon, who just so happened to create a weather app so good, it’s more popular than Alexa’s own built-in weather app.
Steven had never done any programming before creating voice apps for Alexa, and having gained that experience, saw what Samsung was creating with Bixby and wanted to be part of that ecosystem as well. Using Samsung’s educational videos, walkthroughs, and other resources to onboard himself to the platform, he quickly got up to speed.
“The development environment is a joy to work with,” said Arkonovich, regarding Bixby’s developer tool suite. “While the development paradigm is very different than Alexa’s or Google Assistant’s, the distribution—the sheer number of devices that my capsule would be instantly available on—makes it compelling.”
Competing against heavyweights
Big Sky was a Finalist for Bixby Capsule of the Year at Project Voice 2020, alongside voice experiences created by the likes of CNBC and Google.
With voice technology gradually shifting away from voice-only experiences toward screen-enhanced voice-driven experiences, Arkonovich thinks Bixby has a distinct advantage. “Bixby is multi modal first. For example, even the ‘hints’ that tell users what you can do with the capsule are touchable, and will launch the capsule with that hint. I put some very obscure commands in the hints to give users an idea of the extent of information that they could get from the Big Sky capsule.”
“One day, looking over the logs, I saw a weirdly high number of obscure weather requests. I couldn’t figure out why people cared so much about this bit of information. Then I realized that people were just tapping on the first hint that came up when they were looking at the capsule on their phone!”
Creating what they refer to as “the world’s only enterprise-ready conversation experience platform,” the team at Voicify has carved out market positioning around helping businesses bring voice experiences to both Amazon Alexa as well as Google Assistant.
In 2019, however, Voicify added Bixby to the list of ecosystems it supports.
“While Bixby entered the market later than the other leaders in the market, the sheer device exposure Bixby will have absolutely influenced our decision to support deployment to their platform,” said Jason Fields, Voicify’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Their platform is being built for developers and software integrators like Voicify.”
“Their team is passionate, hands-on, and very supportive. I would say they curate their ecosystem more so than others, which makes them even easier to work with.”
To demonstrate this point, Alex Dunn, Principal Architect at Voicify, created a Bixby Capsule in less than 20 minutes at Project Voice, the #1 event for voice tech and AI in America. To do so, Alex used Voicify’s platform, and rapidly went from “concept to capsule.”
“As far as challenges go, I think the mobile-only status of Bixby has met some limitations. We’re excited for the next series of updates which will be bringing on other devices and expanding their footprint, giving our customers a variety of new use cases,” Jason Fields explained.
In 2019, Voicify completed a $2 million follow-up funding round to help the company grow and continue to expand. This funding brought the company’s lifetime raise to $2.75 million, and positions Voicify well for the emergence of enterprise voice applications, including those involving Bixby.
When Mark Tucker got his first computer as a junior high school student back in the 1980s, it included a speech synthesizer—one of the first of its kind. From that point forward, Mark had a profound interest in how voice technology, and voice-first interfaces, could propel humanity forward.
Tucker has organized local meetups of voice developers, authored numerous articles describing successes and challenges he has observed, and most recently, invented Speech Markdown, an open-source text-to-speech format for content creators. He has firmly established himself as a pioneer in the realm of voice tech and AI, and embracing Bixby has simply been the next step in that journey.
“There are a number of different reasons why I started with Bixby development,” Tucker remembers. “First, I thought that learning to develop for another voice assistant would expand my knowledge in voice technology, which would make me a better developer for any assistant. Second, I wanted to better understand how Bixby did conversations so that I could compare that with Amazon’s Alexa Conversations feature.”
Doing more with Bixby
In three months, Tucker was able to create five Bixby Capsules, including “Serve More,” which leverages a variety of Bixby-exclusive features, including list results and detail pages, and “SquareAbouts,” which brings an innovative navigational approach to Bixby.
“The fact that what would be a first-party experience in another voice assistant is just another capsule in Bixby is powerful. Group that with the ability to have default capsules for different natural-language categories, and now my capsule can compete at the same level as any capsule created by Samsung.”
Tucker warns that to be successful as a voice app developer, newcomers should take the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of the various ecosystems, including the particular nuances which make Samsung’s Bixby potent and feature-rich.
Podcasting with Bixby
A competitive advantage
In January 2020, the Bixby team rolled out the ability to bring any podcast into the Samsung voice ecosystem. Jonathan Pan, a technical evangelist on the Bixby team, wrote an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to do this, and it requires absolutely no code.
Any podcast creator can now get acclimated to Bixby, and acquainted with Samsung’s approach to voice, by creating their very own Bixby Capsule.
The existence of this feature, along with the carefully written, detailed instructions on how to implement the feature with your own podcast, is a nice point of differentiation for Bixby relative to other voice/AI ecosystems. Both Alexa and Google Assistant have the capability of turning a podcast into a voice experience, but neither have a process this simple and straightforward.
Once you follow these instructions, you’ll be able to say “With [your podcast name], start” and the podcast will begin playing from its most recent episode. Users will also be able to ask for a visual list of episodes to browse.
To learn more, and to sign up, visit our short but in-depth article on just how easy it is to get your podcast on millions of Samsung devices around the world. It's so easy we'll even do it for you! How to get your podcast on Bixby
Bixby Premier Developer Program
Now in year two
One of the aspects of Samsung’s approach to voice technology that makes the company unique is its Bixby Premier Developer Program. Through this program, the company provides a remarkable level of partnership to participating developers that create Bixby Capsules.
As we have seen with the evolution of other voice ecosystems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the visibility of voice experiences within a marketplace is critically important so the most users can find and download them. Developers joining the Bixby Premier Developer Program receive this top promotional support from Samsung.
Additionally, the Samsung Bixby team is there to help developers throughout the process of creating voice experiences, from ‘white glove’ technical support from the Bixby team itself, to access to a special Slack channel, developers joining this program have access to resources that will set them apart.
Throw in a complimentary Samsung device with which to test Bixby Capsules, along with notifications of upcoming events, hackathons, and opportunities that Bixby developers may enjoy, and there’s a lot of reasons for individuals and companies interested in Samsung’s ecosystem to get involved in this special program.
To learn more, and sign up, visit the Bixby Premier Developer Program.
Connect with the Samsung Bixby Team today!
Bixby Developer Relations Manager
Partner Engineering Lead, Bixby Voice Assistant
Senior Developer Evangelist
Contact the team:
For more news and information:
Visit Bixby Developer Center for the latest Bixby Studio, documentation, samples, and more:
Connect with the author
Join us out on the road at the VoiceFirst Events Series, including the #1 event for voice tech and AI in America, Project Voice.
Learn more: projectvoice.ai