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

Samsung's working to make all of its devices smart, and it talked up those efforts in Las Vegas.

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 TVslaptops 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.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung debuts family of service robots

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. 

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. 

In addition to the new 75-inch size, Samsung is also showing an even larger version of The Wall this year -- a whopping 219 inches. Also on display are "TVs" the company dubs "The Window," which can come in tall, narrow designs as well as short, wide rectangular variations.

And it expanded its 8K TV to 98 inches from its previous max of 85 inches. The 98-inch Samsung Q900 QLED is one of the biggest the 8K TVs announced so far, outgunning Samsung's own 85-inch member of the Q900 series -- first introduced in late 2018 -- as well as LG's new 88-inch 8K OLED TV. 

TVs that work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant speakers

Along with tweaking the sizes of its TVs, Samsung will now let its 2019 televisions work with third party smart speakers, something that's been standard for numerous other TV brands --including LGSony and Vizio -- for the last couple of years.

2019 televisions from the most successful TV maker in the world will be able to respond to voice commands issued via Alexa and Google Assistant smart speakers. Examples include power on/off, volume, channel selection and app launching. "Alexa, turn on the TV" or, "Hey Google, launch Netflix" will produce results with Samsung's 2019 TVs.

iTunes, AirPlay 2 on Samsung TVs

In a surprise announcement on Sunday, Samsung announced that iTunes video and AirPlay 2 compatibility is coming to 2018 and 2019 Samsung TV models this spring -- the first such integration of Apple tech into third-party TVs. For now, Samsung will be the only partner to offer an app for iTunes movies and TV shows through its smart televisions. All other TV makers working with Apple, like LG and Vizio, will let people watch videos through an AirPlay link between an iPhone and a television.

New laptops and monitors

You can always count on Samsung to bring its laptop game to CES. And that it did, with the aim of using premium designs to lure you to its computers


The Samsung Notebook Flash is aimed at budget-conscious buyers. Starting at $350 (roughly £275, AU$490), it's running on a low-end Intel Celeron N4000, 4GB of memory and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. 

James Martin

The new Notebook 9 Pro and Notebook Flash as well as the previously announced Notebook 9 Pen are about design just as much as performance. And the company's new Notebook Odyssey for gaming got an all-metal chassis and a 15.6-inch 144Hz 1,920x1,080-pixel display with Nvidia G-Sync support to help control tearing during game play.

Ahead of the show, the electronics giant announced a pair of Samsung Space monitors that lie flat against your wall like a wallpaper TV and can arc straight down to rest right on the desk. 

Smarter refrigerators and washing machines 

Appliances like new refrigerators and washing machines are often part of the quintessential Samsung CES experience, but with the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show next month back here in Las Vegas (KBIS), Samsung's introductions at CES were limited. 

The company's updated Family Hub Refrigerator software features some new interface tweaks and puts more emphasis on Bixby. But it doesn't appear to mark a serious departure form the original Family Hub, which debuted in 2015.

Thanks to Bixby, the Family Hub can provide answers to questions and handle a bunch of kitchen-related tasks including searching for recipes. Bixby can also give family members a "morning brief" that includes both a verbal report and screen-based readout of the weather and news. The Family Hub also includes a "View Inside" feature that uses cameras to let you see what's inside your fridge remotely. New features will be available via an automatic update for most earlier Family Hub models.

Samsung's new front load washer also integrates Bixby. The digital assistant lets users control its smart features like getting recommendations for the best wash cycle, scheduling a cycle to be completed at a users' preferred time, automatically connecting the dryer cycle when the washer is done, or monitoring usage to efficiently manage their laundry appliances. 

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Galaxy Home is your newest smart speaker

Lots of Galaxy Home talk but no launch date

The Galaxy Home, a three-legged gadget announced in August to contend with other smart speakers, is still MIA. Throughout Monday's press conference, Samsung executives mentioned Galaxy Home and what it can do to control various Samsung electronics using Bixby. But they didn't give any more details about when it will actually launch. 

CNET's Jessica Dolcourt contributed to this report. 

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