Last week, Amazon announced the release of a brand-new home gadget: a personal robot dubbed Astro.
A recent Bloomberg report revealed that the robot has been in the making since 2018, and is now being released to select customers via an invite-only program for a mere $1,000 a bot. Potential customers can request to be invited to purchase Astro, but first, they must answer a series of questions to determine whether or not Astro would be compatible with their homes.
What, you might ask, is the point of having a home robot? Well, Amazon says that Astro is “first and foremost … a surveillance device that tracks you and everyone who enters your home…[designed to give home-owners] peace of mind.” Essentially a security camera on wheels, Astro has night vision capabilities, obstacle and navigation sensors, a speaker system, cup holders, and its own digital voice assistant (which is basically Alexa, but answers to “Astro”).
According to Amazon’s video announcement, in addition to letting you double-check that you turned the stove off when you left the house, this nearly 1.5 foot-tall robot can also use facial recognition technology to deliver items to certain people or follow you around as you make a hands-free phone call. You can even have it remind your kid to take out the garbage at a certain time.
While some might be thrilled about an IoT device traipsing around their house when they aren’t home to help keep an eye on things, many are concerned about the risks involved with allowing this “invasive technology” to constantly monitor people’s lives. According to a report by Vice, one source that worked on the project’s development declared that they still had many worries about the device’s security and functionality:
“As for my personal opinions on the device, it’s a disaster that’s not ready for release… They break themselves and will almost certainly fall down stairs in real world users’ homes. In addition, it’s also (in my opinion) a privacy nightmare that is an indictment of our society and how we trade privacy for convenience with devices like [this].”
However, Amazon executives don’t believe these anxieties will prevent people from wanting to purchase its robots. Bloomberg reported that Gregg Zehr, president of Lab126 (an Amazon hardware development unit), recently stated:
“This is our first robot, not our last robot.”
We haven’t quite reached the world of The Jetsons, where robots can help with menial housework such as making dinner or folding the laundry, but Astro is definitely taking us one step in that direction.