Andy Rubin, the father of the Android operating system, has announced the first innovations from his new company Essential Products, one of which is a new “open” smart home hub that will provide support for tying together technologies from every major home automation platform, including not only Apple’s HomeKit but also SmartThings, Nest, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa. A touchscreen will provide direct access to features, and voice control will provide support for Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. The new hub, dubbed simply Essential Home, features a large round touch-sensitive display that will apparently be able to be triggered by simply looking at it. A new open-source operating system titled Ambient OS will power the device, which WIRED describes as “the spiritual successor to Android,” and Rubin hopes will be the “open source Internet of Things platform” that nobody seems to have developed yet.
The operating system will also be able to dynamically display contextual information on the device, such as appointment notifications that factor in traffic conditions, and can automatically discover and configure new devices found on the local Wi-Fi network. Essential notes as well that the AI engine on the Home will run entirely on-device, communicating directly with linked devices rather than sending data to the cloud. Pricing has not yet been announced, but the device is expected to begin shipping later this year.
Essential is also developing a new smartphone, the Essential Phone, that will run the same Ambient OS and will feature a modular accessory design using a new magnetic dock connector to expand and customize the phone with add-ons while ensuring that the connector types will be future-proofed against things like the changing connectors that Apple has gone through over the years. Accessories built for the Essential Phone wil also be compatible with the Essential Home, which will feature the same magnetic dock connector. Essentail also plans to open source the docking system to allow other developers to build accessories for it. [via AppleInsider]