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Christmas Gift Guide

The base and the brains

Conceptually cool

Flexible input

Modular

Ready to communicate

Local processing

Notifications

Ambient OS

Ready to compete

The founder of Android, Andy Rubin, is taking on the Amazon Echo and the Google Home with his own countertop smart speaker -- the Essential Home.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

Announced in May, the Essential team is now showing off a conceptual model of the Home. Eventually, the Home should look like the mock-up on the left and have a screen that looks like the demo on the right.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

Nothing is finalized yet, but the Essential Home should respond to your voice commands, and have a touchscreen. You'll be able to use it as a personal assistant and a smart home controller -- like the Echo and the Google Home.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

At the back of the base are two connector pins, which will allow you to attach modules to the Essential Home. The first module announced for the Essential Phone is a 360-degree camera. On the Home, that could be used for security or to make video calls.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

The Home will connect to your Wi-Fi network and talk directly to smart home devices with Bluetooth. It may also have antennas for ZigBee and Z-Wave -- which would allow it to communicate with small smart home accessories and double as a hub.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller

The Home will also process requests locally when possible, which is a stark departure from the competition. The Amazon Echo and the Google Home both process all voice commands in the cloud.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller

The Home will support some active notifications from the get-go. Again, you'll be able to control compatible devices both with the touchscreen and with a voice command.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

The touchscreen will use Ambient OS to provide a simple means of interacting with connected services and devices.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller

The Essential Home doesn't have a price or release date yet, and most details still need to be finalized. When it does hit the market, the Home will have tough competition. The Essential Home will try to stand out by making smart home interactions more intuitive and flexible.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET
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