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Here comes Bixby: Samsung to pack AI voice controls into every device it sells by 2020

The Korean conglomerate wants voice-powered Bixby brand appeal for its entire product lineup.

The Samsung-acquired SmartThings connected home platform will likely play a key role in bringing Samsung's vision of AI-enhanced everything to market.

Juan Garzón/CNET

Alexa everywhere? Not if Bixby has anything to say about it.

That's the latest from Samsung, with the man leading the company's artificial intelligence efforts telling the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the plan is to pack internet connectivity and AI-powered Bixby voice controls into each and every device that it sells by 2020. 

With a product catalog stretching from phones and TVs to refrigerators and robot vacuums, that's an awful lot of devices -- half a billion of them sold each year, per the WSJ's report. And, with in-home AI still a technological toddler, Samsung sees its wide swath of gadgets as an in-road.

"We are a device company," explained Samsung Consumer Electronics CEO Kim Hyun-suk in his interview with the WSJ. "The rules of the game are different. It's not right to see it as a matter of being early or late."

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It's all part of a push for a more connected future, with voice-activated artificial intelligence serving as the glue. Just recently, Samsung expanded its efforts to include five new AI research centers around the globe. A dedicated Bixby voice speaker capable of taking on devices like the Amazon Echo is supposedly on the way, too. 

Later this year, the company plans to release an improved version of its Bixby voice platform after the initial launch was largely overshadowed by its more popular counterparts, Alexa and Google Assistant.

We're already seeing people starting to pick out smart home devices and appliances based on the voice platforms they support. That's what Samsung wants in on here -- voice-powered Bixby brand appeal for the entire product lineup.

We'll get a good look at those updated voice controls on Samsung TVs and Family Hub refrigerators once they're available later this year. Seeing just how much better they are than before (there's certainly room for improvement) will be interesting, but I'll be just as curious to see how consumers react to the growing number of devices and appliances with built-in cameras and always-listening microphones. 

AI is on the rise, but as the major tech titans continue to accumulate more and more of our data (and as some of them keep getting hacked), so are concerns about privacy. Whether or not this is a future people actually want is still a topic of debate.