Amazon is propelling Astro, its first family robot, powered by its Alexa smart home technology. The organization said it could be remote-controlled while not at home to check on pets, people, or home protection.
It can also guard a home automatically and send keepers a notification if it catches something unusual. Amazon said it was more significant than “Alexa with wheels” and extended its range of movements and expressions to deliver its personality.
Amazon illustrated asking Astro to “beatbox” – the robot bopped its head and provided indications while playing hip-hop beats. However, Amazon was also keen to pre-empt privacy concerns.
It said Astro could be set with “out of bounds” areas, so it cannot go into specific sites, or could be anchored to “do not disturb.” It also highlights buttons to switch off cameras and microphones – though it fails its ability to move around when they are turned off.
The tiny robot also comes equipped with an extendable “periscope” camera that pops up from its head. Amazon even showed how to use it to check if a gas hob had been left on after leaving the house. During patrol mode, Astro utilizes its extendable periscope camera.
The technology and retail giant recommended that the $999.99 (£740) robot assist the elderly. Astro is bold progress by Amazon, but a reasonable step given its expertise in robots and passion for becoming more unified into consumers’ daily subsistence. Moreover, unlike some rivals, Amazon is willing to bring extremely experimental products to business and see how consumers respond.
Endeavoring products mirror something from a science fiction story beliefs Amazon is an innovative company in consumers and investors. The robot will ship following this year, Amazon said – but only in the US. And after the primary, limited run, its value will go up to $1,449.99. It is considered that the Astro robot will trade in minutes when it becomes available in the US business.
Amazon Astro is a robot “designed to help customers with a range of tasks like home monitoring and keep in touch with family.” With the mix of artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor technology, and voice and edge computing, Astro is teased as the next-gen virtual assistant that takes a physical form factor and can walk around you to help with daily tasks.
What makes Astro more impressive in the promotional stuff is the fluid-dynamic movement that separates it from rigid robots like ‘C-3PO’ from the Star Wars series. The screen can fluidly tilt up and down – replicating the neck movements of a real being. In addition, Amazon says to help personalize the experience, Astro supports a new computer vision feature called visual ID, which lets household members teach the robot to recognize their schedule. It would mean Astro can deliver a reminder or call to a specific person or even find someone to bring them an item stored in the “Astro’s cargo bin.”
But of course, all the latest machine learning and AI capabilities raise numerous privacy concerns that Amazon tries to dispel. The e-commerce giant notes its home robot has a dedicated microphone/camera-off button like other Echo devices in a blog post. When enabled, Astro cannot move or capture video and audio – and a true red LED is illuminated to match the red status indicator on the screen. It further has an “easy-to-see LED light on top of its periscope to let you know when it is streaming video or audio to the cloud.”
The indicator light on top of Astro’s periscope will turn green whenever a video is streamed to the cloud, like when live view is in progress. Amazon claims that the sensor data that Astro uses to navigate your home is processed on-device and not always sent to the cloud. It only streams video or images to the cloud when users use features, like live view in the Astro app, video calling with Alexa Communications, or recording and storage by Ring.
Amazon wants a slice of the robotics market, boldly stating that it believes all homes will have one in five to 10 years. So, naturally, it wants Astro to be that must-have new member of the household, and there is no denying that the little wheeled robot is pretty cute – although the periscope that pops out of its head is a little creepy. But everybody has seen other cute humanoid robots – such as Pepper – fail to make a mark.
It is mainly because the price tag means it will be a toy for the rich for some time to come. And while Amazon was keen to convince us that for that, you get more than “Alexa on wheels,” it was hard to see a compelling use case for this other than to curb that ever-present paranoia that you left the oven on.
But building robots is complex. And if the home robotics market is ever going to take off, people will have to be convinced to spend a lot of money. This first foray offers Amazon a chance to hone its skills. And arguably, there is no company already as firmly embedded in our homes as Amazon.
The company occasionally makes unusual, intelligent home tech such as its Alexa-controlled microwave from 2018.
At last year’s event, Amazon turned heads with a flying indoor alarm drone. The Always Home Cam launches from its deployment bay if it detects a potential intrusion and can fly around a home to check with a video feed. But it was not established, and no more details were released in the past year.
Instead, Amazon said it was opening up the invite list for early adopters to buy the drone on a limited basis – but did not give dates for widespread availability.