ESP8266 and ESP32 are microcontrollers made by the Chinese company Espressif. Microcontrollers are teeny tiny computers with little processor power, memory and space that can interact with sensors, send infrared commands and many other things.
With the ESP devices Espressif has achieved something formidable: their devices have Wi-Fi, are compatible with code for the popular Arduino microcontroller and they are cheap. Like, $5-including-shipping-from-China-cheap (AliExpress) or $15 for 2 on Amazon cheap. So cheap that they are the de facto standard for microcontrollers used in IoT products, both for manufacturers and creators in the DIY space.
Microcontrollers are just computers and so are nothing without their software. Open source software like ESPHome, WLED and Tasmota allow users to turn their ESP8266 and ESP32 devices into powerful little machines that can gather information and control devices. In your home, microcontrollers are the eyes and ears while Home Assistant is the brain.
These pain points stand in the way for creators to reach a wider audience. It’s our mission to make local home automation succeed, and these projects, and all the possibilities that they unlock, are an important part of this.