Astro: Amazon reveals robot Alexa that can drive around your house

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 28 September 2021 18:12 BST
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Amazon has revealed ‘Astro’, an Alexa-powered robot that can drive around people’s houses.

Something like an Amazon Echo on wheels, the machine is able to navigate around the house on its own.

It includes all the traditional features of an Amazon Echo with a screen: it can show TV shows, video calls, or be used to have video chats with family or friends.

But it is also mounted to wheels, allowing it to explore around the house by driving around. It is able to detect things such as walls, stairs or pets that might be in its way, and navigate around them.

It does so using a host of cameras that allow it to see points in space, calculating what is surrounding it and how far away things might be. It can then navigate around those.

It also has a long “periscope” that comes out of the top of its head so that it can explore high surfaces.

And it has a screen on its face which is used for video calls and other information – but also includes eyes that are intended to make Astro seem more friendly and likeable.

It will be available through Amazon’s “Day 1 Editions” programme, which gives early access to products. Users can sign up to buy one now – for $999.99 – and the company hopes to be able to start sending them out later this year.

The Astro robot has been in the works at Amazon for years. Its head of devices, David Limp, said that he had underestimated the amount of computing power required to navigate around the home.

He also suggested the power of the robot was analagous to science fiction. And its engineers said that the technology will be a foundation for even more technology in the future.

The announcement came during an Amazon even that also saw it reveal a home camera that can fly around the house, new health features, and a smart thermostat.

The company has faced criticism in recent years over the intrusiveness of its surveillance technology – particularly when that flying home drone was announced, at the same event last year – and those concerns are likely to increase with the announcement of Astro.

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