Astro Amazon recently unveiled its highly anticipated home robot, Astro

Astro

Amazon recently unveiled its highly anticipated home robot, Astro

Astro

 

Amazon recently unveiled its highly anticipated home robot, Astro, priced at $999. I had the opportunity to participate in a demo with Amazon last week, allowing me to experience Astro firsthand and share my thoughts on its capabilities and purpose.

At first glance, Astro might seem like an unconventional product for Amazon to release, given its primary identity as an online retailer. However, It falls under the “Day 1 Edition” category, meaning it will have a limited release initially. Interested customers will need to sign up and await an invitation to purchase the robot. This approach enables Amazon to avoid mass production of devices that may not resonate with consumers, as was the case with the discontinued Amazon Fire Phone in 2015.

 

When asked about the motivation behind developing a home robot, Charlie Tritschler, Amazon’s vice president of product, explained that during internal discussions about emerging technologies, the inevitability of robots becoming commonplace in homes within the next 5 to 10 years became apparent. This realization prompted Amazon to embark on the journey of creating Astro.

 

It combines several features and capabilities found in Amazon’s existing product lineup. Drawing from Amazon’s experience with industrial robots in fulfillment centers, as well as its devices, Amazon Prime Video, Alexa, and home monitoring services, Astro brings together a comprehensive suite of functionalities.

 

In terms of appearance, Astro is approximately the size of a small dog and moves around on three wheels. Its design incorporates a 42-inch arm with a camera that can rise to observe the surroundings while Astro navigates the house. The robot can follow users and provide entertainment through its 10-inch touchscreen, playing music or displaying TV shows. It can even recognize faces, allowing users to load items into its storage compartment and instruct Astro to deliver them to specific individuals in different rooms.

 

It’s cameras serve multiple purposes, including home security and video chatting, combining elements of Amazon’s Ring cameras and Echo Show smart screens. During the initial setup, the cameras create a map of the house. Astro can be controlled through voice commands, similar to interacting with an Echo or Alexa device, providing information on sports scores, weather updates, and more. It also functions as a platform for streaming movies and TV shows, akin to an Amazon tablet or Fire TV.

 

Additionally, Astro can be remotely controlled through a mobile app, enabling users to monitor and assist loved ones who live alone. Amazon plans to offer a third-party insert, developed by Omron, which fits into Astro’s storage compartment and can accommodate a blood pressure cuff. This expansion opens up opportunities for Astro to serve as a helpful reminder for individuals to check their blood pressure, extending its appeal beyond gadget enthusiasts to a wider audience.

 

While Astro does not possess arms or hands for manipulating objects like “The Jetsons” character Rosie, Tritschler explained that Amazon acknowledged the current limitations of technology in terms of affordability, complexity, and reliability for such features. The focus of Astro’s design was on mobility, intelligent motion, visual identification, and overcoming other technical challenges.

 

In my view, Astro’s most compelling use case lies in assisting those with loved ones who live alone. Being able to call Astro over with necessary items or medications, or having a blood pressure monitor readily accessible, could prove invaluable in certain situations.

 

Tritschler expressed Amazon’s enthusiasm for robotics, emphasizing that Astro is just the beginning. Amazon possesses numerous ideas to further enhance and refine future robot offerings. While I initially had reservations about the Amazon Echo upon its launch in 2014, it has since become a household staple for millions. Perhaps Astro will experience a similar trajectory over the next decade, aligning with Amazon’s long-term vision.

 

Todd Haselton from CNBC shared his experience with Amazon’s robot home robot and his thoughts on its potential. Despite initial reservations, he acknowledged that Amazon has a track record of success with products like the Amazon Echo, which initially faced skepticism but eventually gained widespread adoption.

 

While It’s current features may not cater to everyone’s needs, it does offer a glimpse into the potential of what home robots could become. As Amazon continues to gather feedback and iterate on its products, future iterations may address limitations and introduce new functionalities, making them more appealing to a broader consumer base.

 

Amazon’s decision to release robot as a Day 1 Edition underscores its cautious approach, ensuring that the product is initially available to those who truly value its capabilities and are willing to provide feedback. This approach aligns with Amazon’s commitment to customer-centricity and continuous improvement.

 

As Astro and subsequent home robots evolve, they have the potential to transform various aspects of our daily lives. From enhancing home security and offering assistance to individuals living alone to providing entertainment and serving as smart home hubs, these robots could become indispensable companions in our households.

 

Ultimately, the success of home robots like it hinges on their ability to meet practical needs, offer genuine value, and seamlessly integrate into our lives. While the road ahead may present challenges, Amazon’s commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction positions them well to navigate this evolving landscape.

 

As Amazon prepares to launch Astro later this year, it will be intriguing to witness the reception and impact of this home robot, paving the way for a new era of robotics in our homes.

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