Today the Essential Phone we’ve been seeing teasers about finally went official, bringing us one of the most beautiful bezel-less smartphones we’ve seen to date, all within a fairly reasonable price and with some crazy features and specifications. Along with that, however, Essential has another product to debut — the Essential Home.

This new home assistant, like Google Home or Amazon’s Echo family, is designed to listen to your queries and commands and provide the relevant information, but this product sets itself apart in four major ways. First, its design. The Essential Home is a cylinder with a slope which actually reminds me a bit of Google Home’s shape if it were shorter and wider. However, this design also includes a large round display. The company says that it is focused on bring a home assistant that “you’ll actually be proud to display in your home. No boxes, tubes or strange lights.”

The second way Essential Home sets itself apart from the competition is the way it handles data. Rather than sending information off to servers, Essential Home attempts to handle most of the data it processes locally on the device. That’s a refreshing change from Google and Amazon’s approach, but how it works in practice is going to be interesting, to say the least.

Along with that, Essential Home does more than just responding to you, sometimes it will take the initiative. Using its custom Ambient OS, Home is able to mimic Google Now to an extent, providing information such as traffic times and calendar events when you need it along with other contextually relevant information. How it pulls this information is a little unclear, but it tells me that there may be some level of Google account integration in this device.

Lastly, Essential Home is more than just an always listening cylindrical tablet you ask questions to, it also apparently watches you. Essential hasn’t provided any details on how this works, but on its site it says that you can “ask, tap, or even glance to activate” the device. Presumably, the Home has a camera or sensor of some sort that looks for people in the vicinity and activates when it detects that you’re looking at it.

We still don’t know a lot about the Essential Home, like pricing, but Wired reports that the device will be going on sale this Summer and that the company has already built an impressive smart home control system. Apparently, it can already interact with major platforms such as Nest, Samsung SmartThings, and even Apple’s HomeKit, as well as integrating with Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, somehow. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot more details in the coming weeks.

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Ben Schoon

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