Amazon has revealed a camera-equipped home robot that can recognise a user's face and can be deployed around the house to navigate and check specific areas for safety and security purposes. These are just some of the many features that Amazon said makes Astro a “new and different kind of robot” that is designed to help customers with a range of tasks like home monitoring and keeping in touch with members of a household.
Astro is a roughly two-feet (60 centimeter) tall and 20-pound (nine-kilo) device that can map out a house floor plan and obey commands to go to a specific place to take a closer look with its telescoping camera, an AFP report explains. Writing in a post on the Amazon website, Charlie Tritschler, vice president of products at Amazon, explained how Astro brings in new advancements in artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor technology, and voice and edge computing all in one package.
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The home robot can move autonomously around your house. If a user is returning home, they can see a live view of rooms through the Astro app, or even receive an alert if the robot detects an unrecognized person inside the house. Astro can also store visual IDs to recognise a household's members. With the Alexa Guard feature, Astro can also detect the sound of a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, or glass breaking, and send an alert to the user's phone, Tritschler explains.
While this borders on the realm of science fiction, some raised concerns for potential risks to people's privacy at home. While Astro uses on-device processing to respond quickly to its environment, Amazon explains that users can also designate areas of their home that are off-limits to the robot. These out of bounds zones let Astro know where it’s not allowed to go. When told an area is out of bounds, Astro will avoid entering these spaces, and it will even leave the area if manually placed in an out of bounds zone, Tritschler writes in the post.
The robot also has a microphones/cameras-off button that turn off the cameras, mics, and motion. When this button is pressed, Astro cannot move, or capture video or audio. A bunch of safety sensors ensures that the robot can also else detect stairs and other obstacles in real time.
The Astro robot is one of the many new products and services that were announced by Amazon at an event on Tuesday night. According to cnet.com, Astro is a Day 1 Edition product, available via invite-only preorder. Users can now sign up for an invitation to preorder the Amazon Astro. The robot will initially cost $1,000. Upon broader release, Astro's price will go up to $1,450.