Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Amazon Astro, a voice-controlled wheeled home robot

An Amazon-branded domestic robot has been talked about for some time, and now it has finally arrived. Amazon is launching Astro, its first household robot, powered by its Alexa smart home technology.

The robot – tablet on wheels, roughly the size of a small dog – can be remote-controlled when not at home to check on pets, people, or home security. It also patrols a home autonomously and sends user notifications if it detects something unusual.

Astro is about 50 cm high and can move around on its three wheels. It can map your home and follow voice commands, bringing all the benefits of Alexa to an agile companionable to follow you anywhere, thanks to its wheels. The robot can help the family or the elderly, for example, stay in regular contact with their loved ones through video calls or even organize a beat-boxing party.

The robot has a periscope arm that allows it to interact in a limited way with objects such as knobs and buttons and a series of cameras that allow it to move around the house, avoiding obstacles. It has a microphones/cameras-off button that customers can press whenever they want to turn off cameras, mics, and motion. When this button is pressed, Astro cannot move or capture video or audio, and a dedicated red LED is illuminated to match the red status indicator on the screen.

Thanks to Astro’s computer vision, you can also use the robot as a security camera to check what’s going on in your home while you’re away. It doesn’t look like Astro can play with your pets yet, but they can check to see if your dog has destroyed your couch or, thanks to a dedicated periscope camera if your cat is snoozing on the topmost shelf.

Amazon has insisted that Astro will respect your privacy as well. In addition to integrating all of Alexa’s standard privacy features, owners will be able to set out of bounds zones that let Astro know where it’s not allowed to go and will have access to “do not disturb” features to minimize Astro’s movement at certain times of the day.

Astro is not the first domestic robot on the market, but it is the first that could be successful, as it combines several features already widely tested in other Amazon products.

One thing that is often missing when it comes to household robots is the ability to buy them! Either their price is astronomical, or they are little more than concepts that never see the light of day. This is not the case with Astro. Amazon has already opened a waiting list, promising that the robot will be available (at least in the US) before the end of the year for $999.99. And after the initial, limited run, its price will go up to $1,449.99, it said.

Best of all, Amazon is making a long-term commitment to robots and promises that there will be more in the future. Astro 2 is even already in the works.