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Amazon Astro is an autonomous robot for the home – coming this year

Amazon's first robot is coming sooner than you'd think

After four years’ work, Amazon has debuted its own autonomous robot for the home called Astro.. It has a periscope camera and pulls together a whole bunch of technologies. The device has a screen which shows its eyes for non-verbal communication and looks like an Echo Show 10 with large vacuum-cleaner style wheels. 

It’s not a pipedream – Amazon is opening a registration list for the device today in the US and it’ll cost $999. It says it will invite those customers to buy later this year but we have seen other so-called ‘Day 1′ products delayed after such a promise. The company clearly has big plans in this area, saying during its product announcement that “this is our first robot, not our last robot”. 

Huge hurdles

Huge hurdles

Amazon’s head of devices Dave Limp says: “We had to leverage AI in so many ways including using deep neural learning to map anchor points throughout the home, and building new dynamics slam algorithms that are constantly refreshing.”

“When we kicked off this project I felt sure that autonomous navigation in the home was a computer science problem. Four years later, I admit, I for one truly underestimated the challenge.

“Every day Life is messy, floor plans vary furniture comes in different shapes and sizes. Pets move around and people are constantly setting down sneakers and bags that can block Astros’ path. And unlike roads, your house doesn’t have lines or mounds that help with navigation.”

Amazon provides a few example uses for the robot. The first is home security, enabling you to check on your home remotely. Did you leave the oven on? Is the dog upstairs? Is the smoke alarm going off? It’ll work with Ring’s new even-more-premium subscription service Ring Protect Pro to patrol your home and alert you when something seems amiss.

Another example is checking in on loved ones, particularly of the older generation. The robot can locate them in their home and enable you to talk to them where they are rather than them having to move to the phone.

And, of course, Astro brings Alexa to you – it can locate you to deliver reminders or notify you of an incoming call. The device is designed to hand out where it thinks it will be most useful. It can also detect what’s around it and avoid collisions, such as with a pet that speeds past it. You’re able to stop it going in areas in your home where you don’t want it to and as with other Alexa devices you can mute the microphone or close off the camera.