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Essential's Home assistant is slick, circular and not ready

It can be activated with a glance and turn down your music when it hears you talking.
Matt Brian, @m4tt
05.30.17 in Gadgetry

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When Essential Inc., the stealth startup headed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, teased that May 30th would be a big day, it wasn't lying. We've already taken our first look at the Essential Phone -- a slick, powerful and durable Android-powered handset -- but that isn't the only product the company is showing off today. In its bid to take on Apple, Google and Amazon, Essential has unveiled "Home," a new intelligent assistant that it hopes owners will be proud to show off.

The Essential Home sports a circular design, and isn't too dissimilar to Google's intelligent Nest thermostats at first glance. The round auto-display is activated in three ways: by a simple voice commands, a tap of a finger or just by looking at it. It offers a number of features that other smart home gadgets already provide, but Essential insists its AI is a lot more intelligent than its rivals.

For instance, when it's playing music, Home can detect when you're involved a conversation and automatically turn down the volume. It also takes note of your routines and can "let you know when something feels off or if a light is left on." Got an appointment you don't want to miss? Home will remind you how long you have until you need to leave and blink the lights when it's time. It can also cater for boring tasks like setting timers, answering general knowledge questions and keeping you updated on what's happening.

Essential Home Music

The features come as part of Ambient OS, the new platform that powers the Home. Essential hasn't confirmed that it also runs Android, but given Rubin's previous connections, it's a pretty safe assumption. According to Essential's Head of Engineering Manuel Roman, the operating system is aware of the layout of your home, the people in it and the services that your family or roommates are utilizing. Because it can interact with lighting, speakers and other smart appliances in your home directly, instead of directing all requests via the cloud, it also ships with privacy in mind.

Right now, the company is focused on the Essential Phone, which ships in the coming months. That means details on the Home's availability and price are still hard to come by. However, it's likely that Essential wants developers to embrace Ambient OS before the product ships (it's already inviting developers to access its open SDK), ensuring that apps and integrations are ready for when it does launch.

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