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Astro, the awesome Amazon robot who is the big brother | technology


Amazon put its Astro home robot on sale in the summer of 2021. It offered it as a home assistant that also included monitoring functions. It’s been well received for its good looks, reminiscent of the R2-D2, the friendly robot from the galactic saga, but has also been criticized for its lack of usefulness: it has no arms, and is practically an Alexa voice assistant with wheels and video cameras.

The company has just announced an update to the bot that will bring new features. It will use the front and rear cameras, which until now have been used to make video calls and remote home inspections, to detect if there are doors or windows that are not closed properly, in which case it will inform the owner. It’s also another improvement that lets you see if you’re around dogs or cats and record videos of them.

Another new feature introduced by Astro is its integration with Ring smartphones and video surveillance cameras, which are very popular in the US, bringing the robot into a mobile extension of Amazon’s surveillance network. The user can control it from the application when he is outside the house to browse the different rooms and see what is happening in them. From now on, she will also carry out these tasks herself. This functionality is already covered by Always Home Cam, a drone camera that is only available in the US and that moves around the house on preset routes. But it’s much more beautiful to bump into a small robot with big round eyes than with a flying camera.

According to Amazon, thousands of small businesses are turning to Ring to protect their businesses. “We think it could be a good use case for Astro,” reads the company’s blog for the company, which decided to integrate both products. “If the Ring alarm fails, Astro immediately goes to investigate what happened, while professional agents use their cameras to see what’s going on in real time.”

The tech company executives continue to view Astro as a strategic product for the company’s future. “Astro is our first robot, not our last,” Ken Washington, CEO of Amazon Consumer Robotics, said recently at a presentation of the company’s products and services. The founder and former CEO of the multinational company, Jeff Bezos, was one of the promoters of the Astro project. It was clear to him that sooner or later domestic robots would reign in homes, and he wanted his company to pave the way and prepare for the time when public opinion began to view robots as just another consumer item.

In his presentation, now a year ago, the characteristics of this small three-wheeled machine and the size of a bowling ball were outlined. It has an artificial vision system that allows you to know where you are and monitor different rooms thanks to its cameras. It can play music, follow the user around the house while a video call is displayed on their screen, make an emergency call in case of need and listen to spoken instructions, just like the Alexa voice assistant. You can also carry beer from side to side, a feature that the company itself promotes and has caused ridicule on social networks, as it can transfer it, but has no way of keeping it.

It went on sale for $999 (about €1,014 at current exchange rates) and now costs $1,450 (about €1,470). It can only be purchased by invitation. “Criteria for issuing invitations, at this point, we are looking for customers who can help shape the experience and provide feedback on available features,” company sources explain, declining to comment on whether there are plans to sell the product produced in Spain.

Some users believe that Astro’s design and operation could be improved. There are times when he is unable to locate his charging station, which he goes to alone when his battery is low; It gets stuck when approaching stairs and handling through the app is sometimes slow, Bloomberg reports.

Astro, Amazon's home robot, can check for improperly closed doors or windows.
Astro, Amazon’s home robot, can check for improperly closed doors or windows.

Presence of omniscient at home

Amazon sees its robot as an additional element in its way of understanding home automation: it wants to be able to anticipate users’ needs. “Today you have to ask about things,” Washington said in the company’s presentation. “But a lot of these requests are starting to fade because AI is getting good enough to predict what we want,” he added.

Astro also fits the puzzle that Amazon is putting together to get as much knowledge of what’s going on in homes as possible. The rollout of the chips began with the launch of the Echo speakers, where the Alexa voice assistant is located. These are the ears of Amazon at home: the built-in microphone is always on to detect the activation command. He is able to distinguish between snoring and coughing, providing information about health, and detecting the presence of people by ultrasound.

Other consumer devices, such as Kindle e-books, Fire TV, and Omni TV, as well as its own Prime streaming platform, provide data on user tastes, political interests, or the frequency and speed with which they read. The company is also marketing, among other things, Alexa-enabled smart lights that provide data on energy consumption and daily habits, and the Halo, a smart bracelet with multiple sensors and a microphone that monitors volumes such as activity, movement, heart rate frequency, weight, sleep patterns, and weight estimates. And food or tone of voice. Two out of three Americans who shop at Amazon own at least one of its smart devices, according to consulting Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

With the acquisition of Ring in 2018, available on the Spanish market, the tech company acquired video door entry systems and associated cameras, eyeing it to see who’s entering the house and what’s going on inside. as posted PoliticianAmazon has handed over images of its smart doorbells to police without their owners’ consent at least 11 times this year so far. They assure the company that this type of agreement is a thing of the past.

This summer Amazon announced an agreement to acquire iRobot, the company that makes Roomba automatic vacuum cleaners, which, among other things, will provide them with digital maps of homes that these devices track every time they go out to clean.

The robot complements the Astro Echo and Ring, but adds dynamism: Cameras and speakers can be moved around the house, either on scheduled or remote-controlled rides. It hasn’t yet managed to become an everyday thing, like Roomba vacuum cleaners.

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