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Amazon is no stranger to AI and smart home devices. Its lineup of products powered by Alexa has a pretty big market share in the United States — be it a smart speaker or a smart display, Alexa is now present in a lot of American households. Now, Amazon wants to take the term “smart home” to a whole new level with the Amazon Astro. And this one definitely looks considerably sillier than previous Amazon smart home appliances.
The Amazon Astro is basically a roaming robot with wheels and a smart display for its head. It has eyes and was given a personality in order to make it feel more alive. In a way, you can think of it as your own, The Jetsons-like robot butler, except with a Big Tech spin.
You can use Astro to get a live view of your house while you’re away, remote-controlling the robot to check in on specific rooms when you get an intruder alert or to make sure you did turn off the stove. When you’re at home, Astro will follow you from room to room, if you ask it to. It can play you your favorite music, podcasts, or shows, and it can also find you to deliver calls, alarms, and reminders. Amazon mentions that the robot might be particularly useful for the elderly, with an “Alexa Together” subscription allowing people to take care of their older loved ones remotely by using an Astro to help them out with reminders, shopping lists, and more.
To move around your house and be able to find you without stumbling over your furniture or pets, Amazon is using something called “Intelligent Motion,” utilizing AI algorithms to be able to do everything Amazon advertises it can do, including knowing to return to its charger when it’s running low on battery.
Astro has also already been the subject of media attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Particularly, people have taken to Twitter to mock the robot’s appearance and concept. Others are worried that the robot might be a slippery slope for Amazon to know more about you than it should, with leaked documents obtained by Vice showing how Astro tracks pretty much everything you do at home while not being particularly good at a lot of basic tasks, like circumnavigating obstacles and preventing falls down the stairs. Big yikes.
You can read more about Amazon’s new Astro robot in its official Amazon listing. And if you’re planning to buy one for your house (daddy Bezos already knows everything about you anyway), well, be prepared to pay a pretty penny — it’ll cost $999.99.