Nice!!! (But not for me)
A quick write up of what I found when I read around ESP8266 firmware, I was vaguely aware of most of this but I actually sat down and had a quick play with some of the ideas...
The ESP8266 can operate without the need of a separate micro controller such as an Arduino. The easiest example I could find was to upload the Lua firmware. Everything you need is on github here: https://github.com/nodemcu
It was relatively straight forward. The ESP8266 needs to be booted with it's GPIO0 pin tied to ground to enter into firmware update mode.
Use the firmware flasher to upload the Lua firmware to the ESP8266.
Once this is finished, restart the ESP8266 (remembering to put GPIO0 back to being a floating pin before you restart).
So now you can write and upload a Lua program that is executed whenever the ESP8266 restarts - neato. Here I'm just executing Lua on the ESP8266 through puTTY terminal, connecting to my home wi-fi and confirming the connection by getting the ip address of the ESP8266. There are a few Instructables, YouTubes and blogs about this, all the ones I looked at were pretty good so I won't link to any in particular - Google is your friend.
I am not a massive fan of Lua but this would get me more interested. I found tutorials on compiling C programs for the ESP8266. I can now fully appreciate why this is such a popular device.
The ESP8266 I have only has two GPIO pins but the forums have hacks to extend that like this... http://www.esp8266.com/viewtopic.php?p=3804.
I'm wanting to see how the ESP8266 fits in with my existing long term projects so adding that second micro controller is the direction I'll take....