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Samsung Unveils Massive 98-Inch 8K TV, Expands Bixby Smart Assistant Ecosystem

Samsung took the wraps off a 98-inch 8K television set — the company’s largest ever — a move more to establish bragging rights in the TV-set biz than one intended to sell units, especially given that there’s no 8K-formatted content available to consumers today.

At its press event Monday at CES 2019, the South Korean consumer-electronics giant also announced that it will open up its AI-powered smart assistant Bixby to work with third-party devices and services, including YouTube and Google Maps. Variety reported last month on Samsung’s plans to open Bixby to partners.

The company didn’t announce pricing or specific availability for its new line of 8K QLED TVs, except that select models will be available for pre-order in the U.S. starting Monday. Samsung’s 2019 lineup of 8K televisions also features models with 65-, 75-, 82- and 85-inch screens. The TVs are embedded with the Quantum Processor 8K chip, employing proprietary AI-based technology to recognize and upscale content regardless of the native resolution “to near-pristine 8K quality,” Samsung claims.

While there’s no 8K-based video content currently available, Samsung said the televisions will support native 8K content via the HDMI 2.1 spec when it becomes available. In addition, Samsung said it is working with Amazon Prime Video on creating 8K content. During the press conference, execs also showed off “Game of Thrones” scenes on the 8K QLED screen, but it wasn’t in native 8K format.

Samsung said Bixby will be integrated into its 2019 QLED and premium TVs, and smart appliances like refrigerators, washers, as well as air conditioners, mobile devices, AI speakers and more. In addition, Bixby will expand to partners including Uber, Ticketmaster and iHeartRadio and the company said other partners including Google will join the ecosystem. Bixby started out as the smart assistant embedded in Galaxy smartphones, and Samsung first added Bixby features to its TVs with its 2018 models.

As previously announced Sunday, Samsung will offer Apple’s iTunes Movies and TV Shows and Apple AirPlay 2 support on its 2019 smart TV models beginning this spring. The company said support on 2018 Samsung Smart TVs will be made available via a firmware update. Samsung said a new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app from Apple will debut only on Samsung Smart TVs in more than 10 0 countries.

Samsung also on Sunday showed off modular MicroLED displays that can be combined to different screen-size configurations of up to 219 inches in diameter. For now, those aren’t available as commercial products.

During its press conference Monday, held at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay South Convention Center, Samsung highlighted its 5G wireless tech, noting that it is working with major U.S. carriers and all three mobile carriers in Korea with additional trials running in Europe and Asia. As previously announced, Samsung is planning to deliver a 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019, with carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.

At the end of the presentation, Samsung provided the first public demonstration of Samsung Bot Care, an AI robot companion designed to help consumers manage their daily health routines. It can perform tasks like checking someone’s blood pressure and can automatically call 911 if it detects a health emergency.

According to the company, around 70% of U.S. households have at least one Samsung device.

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