Amazon has officially revealed its first home robot, the $999 “Astro,” designed to navigate around your house on three wheels, offering a range of functionalities such as room-to-room item transportation, video chatting, music playback, and home monitoring.
Astro is part of Amazon’s “Day 1 Edition” products, signifying a limited initial release where interested customers are invited to sign up before being allowed to order the robot. This strategy allows Amazon to manage production based on demand and avoid potential overstock, a lesson learned from past product launches like the discontinued Amazon Fire Phone in 2015.
The decision to venture into home robotics was rooted in Amazon’s assessment of technological advancements, particularly in AI and processing power. Charlie Tritschler, Amazon’s vice president of product, stated that the company sees the inevitable integration of robots into homes in the next 5-10 years, prompting them to take the initiative with Astro.
Astro, roughly the size of a small dog, moves on three wheels, with a 42-inch arm supporting a camera for home monitoring. It can follow users around, play music, display content on its 10-inch touchscreen, and even recognize faces. The robot can be remotely controlled via a phone app, providing a means to check on loved ones, especially those living alone. Amazon plans to offer a third-party insert by Omron for Astro’s back storage compartment, enabling the attachment of a blood pressure cuff to monitor health remotely.
Despite its various capabilities, Astro lacks arms or hands and cannot physically interact with objects. Tritschler acknowledged the limitations, emphasizing that Amazon focused on addressing challenges such as mobility, intelligent motion, and visual identification in the first iteration.
Opinions on Astro are mixed, with some expressing excitement over the concept of a home robot, while others question its practicality at the current price point. Potential use cases include home security and monitoring loved ones remotely, but the absence of manipulation capabilities may limit its appeal.
Tritschler remains optimistic about the future of Amazon’s foray into robotics, stating that Astro is just the beginning. Amazon aims to refine and expand its robotic offerings based on user feedback and emerging technologies, drawing parallels with the evolution of the Amazon Echo, which initially faced skepticism but eventually became a household staple. The company envisions Astro becoming a common sight in homes over the next decade.