Amazon has released a home robot which will utilize the Alexa virtual assistant, further expanding the company’s presence in its customers lives.
When away from the home, customers will be able to use the Astro app to see a live view of their home, check in on specific rooms and viewpoints, and get activity alerts. When at home, Astro is able to follow a person from room to room playing their favorite music, podcasts or shows, and find them to deliver calls, reminders, alarms, and timers set with Alexa.
Astro also syncs with Ring home security products and customers are able to set home monitoring to Away to receive an alert when Astro detects an unrecognized person. They can also receive push notifications from the Alexa app when Astro detects certain sounds like glass breaking, or smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
The technology giant has said it will release the robot to customers in the US later this year, at a cost of $1,000. After the initial, limited run, its price will go up to $1,449.99, Amazon has said.
Home robot will build on growing Amazon presence in people’s homes
Alexa has continued to expand its reach, with thousands of smart home devices ranging from thermostats to smart soap dispensers. The company has not released the number of Alexa-compatible devices since 2019, when it said 100 million Alexa-compatible devices were installed across its user base. More recently, Amazon said there are now more than 900,000 registered developers, brands, and device makers building with Alexa.
Amazon is building Alexa AI into Echo products and the wider consumer electronics world. It is moving Alexa from a voice assistant that manages the smart home to a voice assistant that manages a user’s life, even outside of the home, such as in the car. Amazon also works to rapidly update its software, innovates with third parties to integrate Alexa, and works with developers to expand Alexa’s skills.
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Other assistance robots have failed to take off
Amazon has previously stated that it wants to obtain a slice of the robotics market, confidently stating that it believes all homes will have one in five to 10 years. However, whether there is a strong market for robotics is disputed, and some players which have forayed into production have struggled.
The most high-profile attempt to date was Pepper, a robot developed by Japanese company SoftBank. However, in 2021, Softbank announced that it was pausing the production of Pepper, dealing a blow to the care robot category. The decision was due to weak demand, attributable at least in part to Pepper’s high price. The robot had a $1,790 price tag, which rose considerably higher when the $360 monthly subscription costs were added in.
However, Amazon is a vertically integrated e-commerce vendor with a large cloud services group; its massive e-commerce business gives the company freedom to spend and experiment on hardware. As a result, launching Astro poses as less of a risk for the company.