On Tuesday, at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, Android co-founder Andy Rubin explained that his recently-debuted smart home hub, the Essential Home, will offer to support Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, while also providing its own assistant.
Rubin said that the biggest problem with smart home tech is an "interoperability and integration issue." The major AI assistant and smarthome providers have built their own "islands," Rubin said, and he wants the Essential Home to be the "bridge" between those islands.
"One of the problems in the home is a UI problem," Rubin said. "There's too many things you have to interact with in your home." He then gave the example of a user having to launch an app to unlock their smart door lock, then having to open a separate app to control the lights in their home.
And while the problem of interoperability is an issue, Rubin said that he also doesn't want users to be forced to leave their assistant of choice. "I don't think by buying my product...people should have to switch their assistants," Rubin said.
To accomplish the integrations, Rubin said that Essential Home will leverage the APIs of the other assistants to connect with them. However, those full integrations are still dependent on what Google, Amazon, and Apple each decide to do on their end. Rubin said that he is currently in conversations with those companies.
To accomplish the goal of Essential Home, the company had to build a new operating system—Ambient OS. It was designed to interact with all the other smart home assistants, but to do so with privacy in mind.
"We had to build a new operating system so it could speak all those protocols, and it could do it securely and privately," Rubin said.
The closest competitor to the Essential Home will likely be the Amazon Echo Show. The Essential Home has a 5.6" round LCD, and displays relevant information for the user. Rubin said that users will not need to purchase the Essential phone in order to use the Home—it is a standalone product.
There is no price or release date set for the Essential Home, but Rubin said that it is coming "soon."
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Andy Rubin's Essential Home is a smart home hub that will also integrate with assistants from companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple.
- Rubin said that the Ambient OS, which powers the Home, was built to leverage the APIs of other assistants and to do so "securely and privately."
- There is no set release date or price for the Essential Home.
- Alexa and Google Home's dirty little secret: 97% of voice apps are only used for one week (TechRepublic)
- Android creator Andy Rubin launches his modular Essential phone (ZDNet)
- Google Home: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- The Essential phone from every angle (Gallery) (ZDNet)
- Is advertising the price we'll pay for having AI everywhere? (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.