Essential Home is an Amazon Echo competitor that puts privacy first

Essential Home

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.


Maybe I missed it from the article above, but it what way does it "put my privacy first"? I don’t see any mention of how they’re doing that. Does it still use Google services? Does it have some kind of indicator light for when the mics are active? Does it prevent the storing of my voice during queries? I expected a different article than what I ended up reading.

I guess it’s this part?

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.
Smart Things, HomeKit and Google integrations kinda bastardizes the "privacy" claim.

Don’t know about SmartThings or Google but Homekit is very tight on privacy – everything is encrypted and not transmitted to Apple.

It doesn’t. It’s your choice to use them.

They would have to be on par with Google/Amazon for voice recognition, and speech analysis. Not sure if that’s the case.

Being on par with Amazon is easy as it still can’t even differentiate between who’s speaking.

Essentially this company is confused and lost

How dare you.

I like the look of the thing. Certainly looks prettier than that square-screened monstrosity from Amazon.
Not sure about the angle of the screen – I think I’d have a hard time seeing it from across the room. Maybe wall mount it?

About the only thing I have to say is it looks better than the Echo Look, but I’m pretty sure I poop things that look better than that.

I’m currently sunk into the Echo (one Echo and a lot of Echo dots), but I’m not wed to them. I find anything beyond smart home control to be quite gimmicky, so I’ve yet to see any reason why I would ever bother switching to another product, and I wish Amazon spent more time on making their microphones pick up your voice among background noise better (the Echo is amazing at its ability to pick up my voice even if I’m whispering form across the room when it’s quiet, but it’s pure poop when I’ve got the tv blaring or a raucous dinner party, etc) than pushing gimmicky skills, making ads about buying flowers, or any of the other gimmicky stuff I consider just noise compared to acting as your smart home hub.

If I was going to crack into this nascent field, I would focus on the smart home, and do it REALLY, REALLY well, which means the ability to understand you regardless of ambient noise. THAT product, imo, would be a truly compelling new player in this market.

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