Essential Home is the new intelligent assistant with round "auto-display" just announced by Andy Rubin's new venture. It can be activated with a question, a tap, or even a "glance," according to Essential, and it's designed to never intrude upon the home. In that way Essential calls it "an entirely new type of product" but it mostly borrows ideas from existing products in an attempt to outdo them.
Essential Home lets you control your music, ask general interest questions, set timers, and control your lights — capabilities we’ve seen from Google and Amazon, only Essential promises to do them better, somehow.
It's like Google Home or Amazon’s Echo series of assistants, only without the "boxes, tubes, or strange lights." It's like Nest, but it doesn't try to make your home smart by anticipating your needs — it suggests certain behaviors instead. "In the end people decide," says Essential.
What Essential Home is exactly, isn’t clear. Essential has some nice renders showing the concept in action. But we're not seeing any photos of a working device and nothing in the way of specifications, prices, or delivery dates. We know it'll act as the interface to your smart home gear but we don't know which ecosystems will be supported. We know it runs Ambient OS, though details on that are scant. We know it’ll try to alert you of contextually relevant information during the day, but it’s unclear how.
A report in Wired says that Essential Home will ship later this summer with the intention of bringing "order to the endless standards, protocols, and systems wrought by the Internet of Things." So far, they've built a system that works seamlessly with SmartThings, HomeKit, Nest, "and the rest," according to Wired, including Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Whether all that functionality will be in the shipping product, though, is unclear.
Importantly, we do know that most of the processing will happen locally on the device, not in the cloud, keeping the bulk of your data within the home. This is exactly what you’d expect from a company that’s not in the business of selling ads, or everything else on the planet.
One thing we know for sure is that Andy Rubin will be onstage tonight at Code. You can watch it live starting at 6PM PT / 9PM ET.
Update May 30th, 7:20AM ET: Updated with information from Wired's reporting.