At the end of September, Amazon made an announcement for a brand new product, which is supposed to make the company’s home assistant moveable, by putting it on wheels, called Astro. The company had been rumored that it would be introducing a home assistant robot for a while now, and it finally made the introduction last month, while also showing the robot in action.
While this might be the brand’s most ambitious product thus far, because it brings together a number of different solutions from the company—from cloud services to AI, robotics, and even home monitoring—into a single device, the news didn’t receive all-around positive responses. The new robot is supposed to be the next step into the future that Amazon is creating, in the home robot market.
According to Amazon, the robot can do a variety of tasks around the home, from obeying specific commands to mapping out a home’s floor plan, to recognizing faces, and even delivering items to specific people around the house. Aside from that, it’s also able to play music and tell the weather, similar to Amazon’s Alexa, but it can also be used for video calls, while it follows the caller around, to keep them inside the frame.
However, as ambitious as this robot might be for Amazon since it doesn’t have any appendages, it means it’s not able to move between different floors in a home or other more difficult tasks. According to the brand, there are a number of things that the device is supposed to be able to do, from remote elder care to home security monitoring. For now, it’s able to integrate with the company’s own security alarm system, Ring, and function in the same way as one of the cameras. As for the remote elder care feature, it’s supposed to provide status notifications to caregivers due to the robot’s ability to recognize different faces, as well as send reminders for medications.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t too comfortable with leaving a robotic device to remotely care for their elderly relatives, even if that means getting status notifications. This is because right now, the device feels more akin to an artificial pet, than its true goal—a robotic assistant.
After the announcement, a number of people took to different social media platforms to state their opinions regarding the utility of the robot, a challenge for the company’s digital PR strategies. Additionally, a number of others were also concerned about the potential security implications of having a robot surveillance system inside their home, that’s mapped out every corner of a house. Not only that, but a number of current Alexa users also expressed their concerns over having a voice assistant follow them around in their homes when the voice assistant Alexa has already proven to have unreliable voice recognition performance.
However, it remains to be seen how well this new product adapts to the market, and to consumer needs while being careful not to intrude on any homeowner’s privacy as well. While Amazon hasn’t commented on the mentioned concerns, it has stated that there’s plenty of things that home robot assistants will be capable of in the future, and the company’s simply creating its own market space with the device for now.
Photo credit: Amazon.com