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Essential Home is an Amazon Echo Competitor That 'Puts Privacy First' (theverge.com) 68

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. From a report: Essential Home is the new intelligent assistant with round "auto-display" just announced by Andy Rubin's new venture. It can be activated with a question, a tap, or even a "glance," according to Essential, and it's designed to never intrude upon the home. In that way Essential calls it "an entirely new type of product" but it mostly borrows ideas from existing products in an attempt to outdo them. Essential Home lets your control your music, ask general interest questions, set timers, and control your lights -- capabilities we've seen from Google and Amazon -- only Essential promises to do it better, somehow. It's like Google Home or Amazon's Echo series of assistants only without the "boxes, tubes, or strange lights." It's like Nest but it doesn't try to make your home smart by anticipating your needs -- it suggests certain behaviors instead. "In the end people decide," says Essential. Earlier today, the company also announced the Essential Phone. Unlike the Essential Phone, however, much about the Essential Home is not know. It is expected to ship in a few months.
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Essential Home is an Amazon Echo Competitor That 'Puts Privacy First'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    My question is will these devices collect user information and phone it home to the company? Will it spy on its "owner"?

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:47PM (#54513537)
    From the article: "What Essential Home is exactly, isn’t clear."

    So, why does this article exit, and why is it on Slashdot?
    • Because essentially that is the essential story. It is however, not existential.
    • I think the real story here is more "There's a new company that is announcing some new products that sort of look cool." It's meant to build hype for a more detailed announcement tonight.

      • "There's a new company that is announcing some new products that sort of look cool."

        If that is the point, then TFA should have said what is "new" about it. What can it do that Alexa and Google Home can't do? Nothing that I can see. If the only difference is that it is "private" then TFA should have explained what makes it more private (nothing that I can see) and why I should trust this "new" company.

  • Sounds like a store brand for Target.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:53PM (#54513585)

    "...it suggests certain behaviors instead. "In the end people decide," says Essential."

    People decide? That's a laugh. People are more manipulated by what someone or something else tells them more than ever, to the point where they absolutely rely on it. Can't date without running it through a profiling engine. Can't eat at a restaurant without reviewing the opinions of several million taste buds first. Can't buy products without validating that purchase with a strangers opinion. Create a friendship or relationship from scratch? No way. It must be suggested or recommended by a network of friends of friends first.

    TL; DR - A human engaging in cognitive thinking? What the fuck for? - The Future

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree. I prefer to buy products based on the word of the manufacturer. And if the chef says the restaurant is good, well then by golly it is good enough for me!
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:57PM (#54513613)
    When the only two "people" listed for "security" on their entire fucking team - ARE DOGS.
  • If someone made a voice activated service device that could work with no internet connection, I would bite. Play my MP3s/FLACs on command from a network share, control my lights or TV with an IR blaster, support SIP for VoIP calls, perform internet searches with my preferred provider (if a 'net connection is present). In short - do not connect to the internet unless I tell it to and never transmit my voice unless it's a VoIP call.

  • Very misleading to imply that this device is structurally any different from Google Home/Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant.

    It says it is running proactive intelligence locally on the device. OK... but there is no way it's running ASR and NLU locally on a device of this form factor. There may be some notification logic locally on the device, fine, but this is pretty much negligible from a privacy impact perspective.

    • OK... but there is no way it's running ASR and NLU locally on a device of this form factor.

      I would say, it depends on the expected performances.
      There a difference between an (cloud-based) AI that can listen and answer nearly in realtime.
      And an AI that react slower, requires a simpler vocabulary, etc.
      (but thusly works even if the connection is down).
      With the advance in moore's law, the latest gen of small form-factor hardware might be able to run locally some significant deep neural-nets.

      • With the advance in moore's law, the latest gen of small form-factor hardware might be able to run locally some significant deep neural-nets.

        Especially if it's just running them, and the training happens elsewhere.

  • Why would I want any of this?

    I already have non-wired heating cooling in my house and I don't need my IoT fridge to spy on me while pretending it doesn't.

  • Privacy first is useless if security is not brought and kept at the maximum level. Read "backdoors", "thinkos" and bugs.
  • I'll buy the first one of these that lets me change the activation phrase from whatever the default is to 'computer'

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can't 'Put Privacy First' that is constantly listening for something to trigger it.

  • In this day and age I don't believe them for a single moment.
  • I don't believe you.

  • This crap is just so annoying, I can't believe that anybody would take it seriously? Even Siri and the like are irritating and don't get it right all the time. If something isn't 100% then it's junk, and this kind of crap isn't getting anywhere near my house.

  • Back in the day, someone described baby monitors as devices people use to bug their own homes. A geek with a scanner could hear everything. Now, it is worse. It isn't an asocial geek with a Radio Shack box...but a multinational with limitless resources bugging your home. What could go wrong ?
  • Wanna make an assistant AI private?
    Essencially *cough*, what is needed is for it to work offline, period. No buts and ifs.
    Core AI functionality could get updates overtime to make it more efficient, but no sending data through the Internet while it's in use. A concept that is very easy to understand.

    Here's what they put on their page:
    "Privacy by design
    The home is your own space where you should be able to say what you want, without having to worry about your privacy.
    We’ve designed Essential Home to run

  • With all these new chips being made for Iot and AI and low power embedded, someone will make a cheapish chip with some DSP cores to be able to do more and more off line. It will have to come from the community as the big boys don't want that.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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