Amazon announced yesterday its new ‘home robot’, and it’s the cutest thing you ever did see. Its name is Astro, and is made up of a large display at the front, several sensors, a camera, and a wheeled base.
Its use is rather a mystery right now, but Amazon says it will be able to help around the house and, because of this, is a breakthrough in engineering. The thing is, is it doesn’t do much at all. It doesn’t even have hands, or arms, or anything to reach out and grab me a beer with. On top of this, it’s also very small, so even if it did have a pair of arms, I’m not sure it would be able to reach anything to note anyway.
“Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity,”
Despite this, Amazon is keen to see Astro as a product with value. And while potential customers may see it as a privacy concern, Amazon thinks it will be used to keep you safe by identifying intruders with facial recognition. To facilitate this, the robot can ‘patrol’ the house at night, or can even be controlled remotely via your phone with an extendable periscope-mounted camera to watch your house with.
In the following ad, they used the robot to check the oven was off.
Some sites believe this to be a good reason to buy the robot. Yes, you can observe your home from afar, but with a price tag of $999, a simple set of cameras would do exactly the same thing for less, and will likely give you a higher quality video feed.
But this isn’t about Amazon making a lot of money – it already has plenty of that – instead, this is a step into the direction of ambient computing. That being, a way for Amazon to push more tech into your home with sensors, cameras, and microphones, which will give you assistance. The acquisition of Ring in 2018 was the beginning of this.
So, yes, it’s an interesting step into the world of help at home, especially for those who are disabled. But does it intrude a little too much on our own privacy? While there’s no evidence to prove that Amazon, or Google, or Apple, is listening, it sure feels that way.