Essential Home: A Google Home replacement with privacy and compatibility as its top priorities

What Essential Home brings to the game is a round, auto-display. You can tap on it, ask questions directly or even glance at it to activate it.


Andy Rubin is the founder of the software that is in all probability powering your smartphone as you read this article right now. After Google acquired Android and pushed it out to the masses, Andy set out to make something better. While he was connected to a number other projects, the Android founder had not too long ago teased a new smartphone, one that would be different compared to the mass-manufactured Android devices we have today. Yesterday, that secret was finally revealed.

Essential Home: A Google Home replacement with privacy and compatibility as its top priorities

Rubin announced to the world what he and his team  at Essential Products had been working on. He showed off a smartphone called Essential Phone that runs Android, a home hub to control all your connected devices called Essential Home and a new Ambient OS that powers the latter.

While the smartphone was interesting enough in the sense that it put craftsmanship first, with the use of titanium for the body along with an edge-to-edge "Full Display" it is basically a smartphone that runs Android. The other half of the Essential experience basically lies in the home device or hub called the Home.

The Home is simply based on three main ideas, easier interactions, proactive help and privacy.

Essential Home (1)

Essential wanted its home hub to be the device that would exist "beyond automation and opaque devices with blinking lights." Mara Segal, Head of Product pointed out in her blog that the company strongly believed that the current devices (Amazon Echo, Google Home) "didn't fit into the way people felt about their homes, which are usually places of comfort and warmth."

Although Essential Home and Google Home meet the same end need of the consumer, the thought behind the former is a bit different.

Essential's idea is to use the power of artificial intelligence locally and connect deeply with your home network. The idea is the exact opposite of how Google Home works, one that will share your whereabouts with the cloud to make its suggestions smarter.

Simply put, Essential Home is claimed to be proactive, supportive and helpful. More importantly, the vision is that it will not force you to ask or type a question, that it just works when you need something and will be able to connect with every IoT device in your house to get things done by voice.

Essential Home (2)

What Essential Home brings to the game is a round, auto-display. You can tap on it, ask questions directly or even glance at it to activate it.

Coming to privacy and data security. Business Unit Lead Dwipal Desai said that all the data gathered by Home remains in it and that it will communicate with the smart devices in your home to limit sending data to the cloud.

"Our goal is to work with all your favourite devices such as smart light bulbs, security cameras and music systems and let you have complete control of your home." Additionally, Essential Home wants to support most of the devices that you would already own and use.

Essential Home (3)

Core to all of these experiences is the Ambient OS that powers Essential Home. Essential hints that Home is aware of:

  • The phyiscal layout of your home
  • The people that live in it
  • The services relevant to both your home and the people in it
  • And the plethora of smartphone devices present

Manuel Roman, Head of Engineering — Home Devices says that, "Ambient OS is the API to your home that enables the creation of applications that extend the reach of a single device." He explains that the key idea behind Ambient OS is that people should always be in control. "It does not try to make your home smart by anticipating what you need. Instead, as it learns from people, it can suggest certain behaviours, but in the end, it will let people decide whether or not to use them."

Indeed all of this depends if all goes well. While the Essential Phone can be reserved, the Essential Home is not up for sale yet. While the device looks like a sleeker, evolved version of the humbler Google Home, the finer details on the same have not officially been revealed. Will it be a true Google Home replacement or will it turn out to be a Samsung Bixby?

Right now it's hard to tell.

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