First we had the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo, then Google Home with the Google Assistant. Now a number of big-name brands are getting in on the smart-speaker act, including Panasonic, Sony, Sonos and Apple (with its upcoming HomePod).

Given its efforts to create its own voice assistant that is built into its flagship smartphones, one well-known brand stands out here as being more notably absent than most: Samsung.

Things won't stay that way for long, though, and Samsung has confirmed that such a device is in the works. When questioned over the possibility of a smart speaker, DJ Koh, President of the mobile division, told CNBC "Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it."

What is Bixby?

We answer this question in much greater detail in our related What is Bixby article but, to summarise, Bixby is a new voice assistant that launched on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, and is also available on the Note 8, with the phones even featuring a dedicated button on their side to quick-launch the feature.

Bixby is just like Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa, a witty companion that can answer your requests. It offers a whole new way to use your smartphone, a new voice interface that can supplement - and to some extent replace - the existing touch interface.

When is the Bixby smart speaker release date?

The WSJ reports that the Bixby smart speaker has been in the works for over a year, and that it is codenamed Vega. Bloomberg claims its sources say the Bixby smart speaker will be announced in early 2018, with a release date in the first half of the year.

MWC seemed like a great chance for Samsung to reveal the device, but the show in Barcelona was all about the Galaxy S9.

A new rumour from WSJ contradicts Bloomberg, saying that Samsung will in fact release the premium smart speaker in the second half of 2018.

How much will the Bixby speaker cost in the UK?

We think Samsung is likely to position its smart speaker closer to the Apple HomePod than it is the significantly cheaper Google Home (£129) and Amazon Echo (£149). The HomePod will cost $349 in the US (and likely £349 in the UK) when it becomes available in early 2018.

However, Bloomberg suggests Samsung will look to undercut Apple by around £100, which means we should be looking at an RRP of around £249.

What are the rumoured features and specifications?

Smart speakers typically feature very similar specifications, combining a cylindrical speaker design with multiple noise-cancelling mics, wireless connectivity and a bunch of LEDs that show you it is listening to you. We’d hope to see the Bixby speaker also feature Bluetooth.

The Bixby speaker will outperform the Google Home and Amazon Echo, according to Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman, speaking to the Korea Herald. The audio firm is making the speaker in partnership with Samsung.

"A significant level of joint research and development of the device is underway. The Samsung speaker will have a better AI platform than Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa," he said.

Paliwal also stated that the speaker will be 'complete platform' and will be able to interact with home appliances and mobile devices stating "What we are going to launch will be a whole new ecosystem."

Very little is known about the upcoming Bixby speaker, but we will update this article when we hear more.

Read next: Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod

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