AI Powered Phone that Texts for Users Said to be in the Works at Essential
Anonymous sources familiar with plans for development have told Bloomberg that Essential Products Inc., has made the creation of an AI-powered phone that texts and emails for users their main focus, putting aside other projects. The sources also report that Essential has paused the development of Essential Home, a device similar to the Amazon Echo. Sales of Essential’s first phone, the Essential Phone, were reported to be disappointingly low which is why the company has also abandoned the development of their second phone product. It could be the rumors from last spring are true, as anonymous sources also told Bloomberg back in May that Essential was considering selling itself due to all the setbacks.
AI Powered Phone
According to Bloomberg, the mobile device currently in development is very different from the average smart phone. Although users would still be able to make calls from the device, it would have a smaller screen which would require users to interact primarily using voice commands. It will be powered by Essential’s in-house artificial intelligence software which ideally would be able to respond to text messages or emails, as well as book appointments on its own. No details have been given as to how these features would work, nor has any release date been given.
Mandatory Voice Commands
Andy Rubin, founder and CEO of Essential, told Bloomberg in an interview last year he was interested in the development of devices that acknowledge and actively try to decrease the addictive nature of technology, commenting,
If I can get to the point where your phone is a virtual version of you, you can be off enjoying your life, having that dinner, without touching your phone, and you can trust your phone to do things on your behalf. I think I can solve part of the addictive behavior.
Having voice commands, a much smaller screen, and automated replies would probably keep users off their phones. However, it would require consumers to actively want to be on their phones less. And more importantly, to trust an artificial intelligent agent to act on their behalf.
Enough to Keep Essential Afloat?
Although Essential has raised $300 million in funding to date and was valued at around$900 million to $1 billion as of 2017, the company has struggled since its launch in 2015. And it starts at the top. Founder and CEO Andy Rubin previous workplace misconduct scandals at Google became public last year, forcing him to take a leave of absence. Then reportedly, ‘dozens’ of key hardware and software engineers and top executives have since jumped ship. Which is why the recent rumors surrounding the capabilities of its new AI powered mobile device are to taken with more than a grain of salt. The Bloomberg sources report that Essential hopes to have a prototype finished by the end of the year with plans to demo the device to industry partners in January 2019 at CES in Las Vegas. Considering Essential planned to launch a smart speaker last year and it’s nowhere to be seen, it could be more than a year before the mobile device debuts, if at all.