Amazon’s Astro puts Alexa on wheels

The company’s first household robot features a smart display and a periscope camera, but no tail.

astro moving around home
Amazon

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Amazon’s first home robot, dubbed Astro, looks more like The Jetsons’ robot maid Mathilda than the family’s canine companion. The two-wheeled robot features an Alexa-powered smart display, a camera mounted to a periscope, and enough computer vision, sensors, and artificial intelligence to interact with people and autonomously patrol your home. Astro will react to voices with movement and simple facial expressions with cartoon-style eyes.

Astro uses simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology to navigate a home’s interior in the same way that higher-end robot vacuums do. Amazon says this will help it adapt to a home’s changing environment, enabling it to respond to obstacles that might not have been in its way the last time it passed through an area. The robot can also detect hazards to itself, such as stairs, and it can automatically brake if a pet or an object moves in front of it while it’s in motion.  

astro periscope camera Amazon

The Amazon Astro has a camera mounted on a periscope, so you’ll be able to see objects and areas that would otherwise be outside of the robot’s field of view.

Amazon says Astro can be trained to recognize family members and it can deliver reminders and respond to incoming phone calls. Watch a TV show, listen to music, or initiate a video call, and the robot follow you around the house, keeping its display and camera oriented to your face. Drop something in its onboard cargo bin, and you’ll be able to tell Astro to deliver it to a specific person.

The autonomous robot can be integrated with a Ring Alarm security system, so that if you subscribe to the Ring Protect Pro monitoring service, Astro will be able to patrol your home in your absence and proactively respond to motion and other sensor-based events. It can also show you live views of the rooms it enters, store video recordings to your Ring cloud storage, and send an alert if it detects an unrecognized person in your home.

You can use Astro’s periscope camera to check on things that would otherwise be too high for the robot to “see.” In a video presentation, Amazon showed Astro checking if a stove had been left on.

astro aging in place Amazon

Amazon anticipates Astro to be a welcome tool for helping remote caregivers stay in touch with relatives who are aging in place.

Remote caregivers might be interested in Astro’s ability to check in on parents aging in place, ensuring they’re up and active and using Amazon’s Drop In feature to stay connected. The robot can also be integrated with the new Alexa Together service that provides 24/7 access to local services if their loved ones need urgent assistance.

Privacy protections

Amazon says Astro will use mostly onboard processing to learn familiar faces, to enhance privacy. As with other Alexa-powered smart displays and speakers, the robot has physical buttons that can turn off its onboard microphones and camera. An LED on top of its periscope camera lights up when it hears its wake word and whenever it’s streaming audio or video to the cloud.

Amazon says Astro can be trained to recognize family members and it can deliver reminders and respond to incoming phone calls. Watch a TV show, listen to music, or initiate a video call, and the robot follow you around the house, keeping its display and camera oriented to your face. Drop something in its onboard cargo bin, and you’ll be able to tell Astro to deliver it to a specific person. Facial recognition will be performed with on-device processing to enhance privacy, according to Amazon.

Once Astro has mapped your home, you’ll be able to designate rooms as “out of bounds.” The robot will then not enter that room, and it will automatically leave the room if manually placed in it.

Availability

Amazon expects to ship Astro later this year as part of its Day 1 Editions program at an introductory price of $999.99, including a six-month subscription to Ring Protect Pro. The robot’s regular price will be $1,449.99 and presumably will not include Ring Protect Pro. We hope to be able to provide a hands-on review of Astro later this year.

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