For decades, science fiction has promised us useful home robots, but development and adoption have been slow. It usually takes the backing of a big company to really kick things off, and Amazon may have heeded the call with Astro, their new Alexa-on-wheel. But is this future more? Jetsons or Black mirror is up to you.
It looks like Astro can do most of the things you could ask for in a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo – users can use voice commands to ask questions, set reminders, make calls, listen to music, and more. Dictate messages, snap photos, etc. The difference of course is that this one is not stuck on the mantle but can roam around the house. Astro can be commanded to follow you around while on calls or playing music or podcasts, and when it’s not needed, it will hide itself, waiting for a wake-up phrase.
Taking some obvious design cues from the movies, the Astro looks like someone glued a tablet to the Roomba. Glittering across the screen are a pair of large animated eyes, which it will use to trick you into thinking it has a personality – it can blink, wink, look happy or sad, and even close its eyes when it “takes a nap.” eye” charger. That screen can also show what Astro is doing, display on-demand information, or display video calls, and it can rotate or tilt up to give you a better view, no matter where you’re standing. where.
The robot can be set up with a map of the house to help it navigate and a set of sensors that allow it to avoid bumping into furniture, people or pets. Users can set up no-go zones to stay away from stairs or out into the yard. A new computer vision system means Astro can be trained to recognize different people or alert you if it detects strangers.
With all of this in mind, Astro is, ideally, designed to be a sort of robotic butler when you’re at home and a portable security system when you’re not. The clear vision system means the bot can come and find a specific person when there’s an incoming call, reminder notification, or even delivery of an item someone else has placed in its small box.
When no one was at home, Astro took on a different role. It can be set up to automatically patrol the house, monitoring and listening for anything or anyone that shouldn’t be there, including detecting noises like broken glass or alarm bells. . If something suspicious is detected, an alert can be sent to the user’s phone for them to check and video clips can be saved.
Users can also control Astro remotely from their phones, to check if the house or specific things like the stove are on. An HD camera pops out of your head to give you a better view, extending up to 42 inches (107 cm).
Of course, people would naturally be reluctant to invite Amazon scoundrels into their homes and give them such mobile eyes and ears. The company claims that all facial recognition processing is handled on the device itself, the lights indicate when the camera and microphone are on, and they can be turned off with a dedicated button at the top. But the constant reports of Internet of Things device hacks, mistaken recordings by voice assistants, as well as the police getting a bit overzealous with Ring (which Astro can sync) will make many people think. whether they really want to put these things on wheels. too.
Furthermore, a report by Vice’s Motherboard, based on leaked documents and inside sources, states that the robot “has a lot of flaws”, a “privacy nightmare” and an “unready disaster” ready for release.”
But let it go. The first batch is likely to be offered by invitation only to US customers later this year. It will start at $999.99, but will eventually retail for $1,449.99.
Check out the adorable Astro in action in the video below.
Introducing Amazon Astro – Household robot for home monitoring, with Alexa