Amazon launches $ 1,000 voice-activated robot for the home
Amazon.com Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a home robot called Astro, a screen on wheels that works with the company’s Alexa voice software.
The bot, which Bloomberg first reported was in development in 2018, was showcased at an Amazon pet-checking product event on Tuesday while a user was away following a child. at home during a video call. It can autonomously patrol the house and respond to voice commands, and will cost $ 1,000 for guest buyers later this year.
The device screen defaults to a pair of circles to mimic the eyes. Astro is capable of traveling about one meter per second. It incorporates cameras that help the robot to map its environment and navigate, as well as a periscope to expand its field of vision.
“Customers don’t just want Alexa on wheels,” said Dave Limp, head of devices and services at Amazon. “We embodied him with a unique personality of his own.”
Limp said the robot is part of an Amazon program that provides devices that are still under development. Astro will be sold by invitation only at an introductory price of $ 1,000. After that, it will cost $ 1,500, the company said. Shares of IRobot Corp., maker of Roomba vacuum cleaners, fell slightly on the news on Tuesday.
Seattle-based Amazon has come a long way as a hardware player since a failed foray into smartphones a few years ago. Amazon has built a huge electronics company around its voice-activated Echo smart speakers and accompanying Alexa software. It has organized the unveiling of new products in each of the past few years, an effort to position itself at the center of the burgeoning market for smart home gadgets.
The company does not publish financial or operational results for its group of devices and services, but Euromonitor International estimates that Amazon’s line of gadgets is the third-best-selling brand in the United States in terms of unit sales, behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
The vast majority of products, however, are relatively inexpensive gadgets such as Fire TV streaming sticks or miniature Echo speakers. At Astro, Amazon, a company renowned for its rambling and utilitarian hardware, put together its biggest test to date: selling a high-end product with a sky-high price tag.
Several of Amazon’s other updates announced on Tuesday, from professional monitoring of Ring video cameras to an elderly care app and new voices for Alexa, were aimed at adding paid or subscription services to popular Amazon products. .
The latest products and services include:
- A smart thermostat in partnership with Honeywell International Inc. The $ 60 device, which will sell for as little as $ 10 with discounts, is a potential competitor to Alphabet Inc.’s Google Nest.
- An Echo device with a 15-inch wall-mounted display that can stream Prime Video and Netflix, display calendars, and comes with a custom chip to help process voice commands.
- Partnered with Walt Disney Co. to install Echo devices at corporate theme parks and hotels. Expected next year, they will be equipped with new software, called Hey, Disney !, based on the technology behind Amazon’s Alexa. This will allow visitors to interact with Disney characters and invoke Alexa for other tasks. People with Echo devices at home will be able to purchase the feature for their own devices.
- A new version of its fitness tracker, called Halo View, which incorporates a small screen for the first time. It will cost $ 80, Amazon says. A new service, Halo Fitness, targets primary users of wrist devices. Peloton shares fell on the news.
- Glow, a device that combines an 8-inch screen for video chat with a projector that displays images on an adjacent 19-inch “touch” projection area. The land allows children to connect with their loved ones by doing puzzles or drawing together. Available to start by invitation only, the device costs $ 250.
- Ring goes beyond its roots in do-it-yourself home security, launching a suite of products targeting the professional security services market.
Amazon’s devices unit has come under frequent criticism, from privacy advocates questioning the wisdom of always-on microphones in the home and civil liberties groups alarmed by Ring’s partnerships with law enforcement and security practices. These doubts did not derail Amazon sales.
Meanwhile, the company has been working on fine-tuning its privacy credentials, giving Alexa users more granular options to delete voice recordings captured by Amazon devices, encrypting videos captured by Ring and asking police departments to publicly request the images they want for investigations. An update announced Tuesday and coming to select Echo devices will allow user order processing on the device itself, eliminating the need to pass that data to Amazon’s servers.
Amazon announced its first line of televisions earlier this month, along with an update to its line of Kindle e-readers. Bloomberg News reported last week that Amazon is working on a larger Echo with a wall-mounted display, TV soundbar, and more advanced smart speaker technology for use in cars. The company also considered developing an Alexa-powered wearable device for children.
In a video accompanying Amazon’s presentation, device manager Charlie Tritschler described the impetus to start developing the Astro robot. “In one of the senior management meetings, we talked about ‘does anybody in the room think in five or ten years you won’t have robots in your house? ”, Said Tritschler. “And everyone’s like ‘Yeah, we are.’ So we said, ‘Well, let’s get started.’ “
Gregg Zehr, president of Lab126, Amazon’s skunkworks hardware unit, added Gregg Zehr: “This is our first robot, not our last robot. “