Amazon will be updating Astro, its home robot, with major updates that aim to further embed it in homes and in our daily lives, the company announced Wednesday.
The new features allow for more home monitoring. These capabilities include the usual: Astro will be capable of watching pets and sending a live feed of their activities to their owners. Astro will be able to walk around the house and keep an eye on entry points and rooms.
“This will start with doors and windows, so that Astro can alert you if something was left open that shouldn’t have been,” Ken Washington, vice president of consumer robotics at Amazon, said in a presentation on new Amazon devices and services.
Ring has had its share of controversy over its surveillance approach. Eileen Guo reported last year that , Ring was marketed as a tool to help domestic violence survivors but also allowed survivors to access their lives. Ring has been criticized for its racial profiling practices and privacy violations. It is reasonable to wonder if Astro’s ability roam around a house and Ring’s established surveillance system might cause more surveillance problems than the previous versions.
Astro has been a remarkable security guard. Astro was introduced almost a year ago. However, there have been few reviews about the robot. That’s because potential customers had to be invited to test the robot (Amazon offered Astro for $999 to early invitees, but it has since raised the cost to $1,450). The robot, with its big eyes and R2-D2-like structure, was undeniably cute. Even those few user reviews were mixed. Many users found Astro incapable of doing more than delivering objects between rooms .. It also encountered problems in mapping rooms. some users found that its intense focus on following a person around was almost creepy ..
Amazon doesn’t hide its goal: to know everything it can about your daily life, part of the company’s vision for a home filled with “ambient intelligence.” Amazon’s Washington told Wired the company recognizes that standard security cameras are offputting and threatening. Astro could be different, he stated: “If you have a mobile robot, it could be this smart glue to this future vision.” This vision is bound to change the way we relate to the spaces in which we live. Astro is a cross between Alexa’s helpfulness and Ring’s all-knowing eyes. It could be the most powerful, intrusive home robot we have ever seen.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.