Pushing a button on the remote will summon Bixby and allow interactions similar to other assistants, such as searching for TV shows and movies, asking for a weather report, turning on the lights, playing a song from Spotify, showing photos from the cloud and even doing trivia.
Meanwhile rival LG and Sony TVs use Google Assistant for voice capabilities (and can also work with Alexa). Vizio TVs work with Google Home, and Element and Westinghouse sell Amazon Fire TV Edition sets that have Alexa built-in. Compared to those systems, Bixby is a relative newcomer, with fewer compatible devices and capabilities.
Beyond voice, Samsung is putting a few other new strings to its 2018 Smart TV:
- SmartThings App: A big-screen app lets the TV serve as the hub to control SmartThings smart home devices, from lights to thermostats to security cameras (SmartThings is owned by Samsung). You can receive notifications on the TV, for example, when a load of laundry is done. Samsung says the app can automatically find and connect to devices on the same network, and there's no external dongle required for control.
- Simplified setup with a phone: Samsung says the painful process of setup is made easier with the help of the SmartThing app. The TV can grab Wi-Fi credentials from your phone and also allow you to enter login info for apps, as opposed to using an onscreen keyboard. Similar features are found on Android TVs and streaming devices, and they do make setup a lot easier.
- Universal Guide: A revamped program guide consolidates shows from streaming and cable sources in one place, and makes recommendations for new shows based on what you watch. Samsung says the guide can also read the contents of a DVR, and works with all major DVRs including TiVo, Verizon Fios, DirecTV, Time Warner and others. You can also receive alerts on your phone when your favorite teams play.
- Xbox integration: Samsung is also expanding its partnership with Xbox to include new features that work between the TVs and consoles. When you connect an Xbox the TV can automatically recognize it and engage game mode, reducing input lag among other benefits.
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