Amazon has a new plan for its home robot Astro: to guard your life

Amazon has a new plan for its home robot Astro: to guard your life

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.

Amazon announced a new partnership between Astro and Ring’s home security camera system called Virtual Security Guard. This will protect your home from potential break-ins. Amazon, which bought Ring in 2018, pitched the pairing as a way to further guard small businesses from break-ins, by videotaping intrusions and calling the authorities (though it seems like homeowners should be able to use that capability as well).

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 ..

Last year’s pitch stated that Astro would make your home more comfortable and enjoyable. It was a kind of cute, bumbling sidekick. Amazon has recast Astro this year as a device with a more serious mission: to provide additional eyes on our pets, homes, and livelihoods. As with all surveillance technology, Astro requires trust. You would be extending this trust to a robot that can move through your home. Although it may seem like a small thing, it can make a big difference in how people view robots in their homes and how Amazon interacts with our private lives. However, Maya Cakmak is an assistant professor at Washington and heads the Human-Centered Robotics Lab. She believes Astro’s compatibility to other aspects of Amazon’s home surveillance ecosystem, Ring, and Alexa, could make it a great success. Cakmak says that Astro can seamlessly provide these services.

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.

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