Amazon introduces Astro household robot
The rolling little thing with a screen as a face should once cost $ 1500.
San Francisco Amazon’s hardware events have been more surprising than those of the former “One More Thing” company Apple for some time. The world’s largest online retailer often presents curiously futuristic devices, but their market launch is often years in the future. Amazon remains true to this tradition.
This Tuesday, the final surprise at the event was the autonomous home robot Astro. The rolling little thing with a screen as a face should once cost $ 1500. The first buyers who make it to a waiting list should receive it at the end of the year for 1000 euros.
However, Amazon counts Astro as a “day One” product whose wide launch could take even longer. “Hot from the lab,” as Philipp Berger, Head of Germany for Alexa, calls it. Even a start in Germany seems to be far in the future.
With a camera and display, the robot, which resembles a little brother of Wall-E from the Pixar film of the same name, has so far been a kind of rolling echo show that allows mobile video calls, for example. Instead of talking a lot about the functions of the robot, Amazon made several roboticists appear, praising Astro’s abilities to avoid obstacles.
However, Astro is not really useful yet, but it seems to be more of an entry into a new category. Charlie Tritschler, Amazon’s vice president of devices, rhetorically asked if “anyone thinks we won’t have home robots in five to ten years?” No one at Amazon, anyway.
In addition, Amazon is further developing its well-known portfolio of smart speakers, door cameras and doorbells. The biggest innovation is an Echo Show with a 15.6-inch screen that attaches to the wall and looks more like a TV than a speaker with a display.
Miriam Daniel, vice president for Echo and Alexa, called the device a “kitchen TV” that can primarily serve as a smart family calendar and control center for smart home devices.
Amazon has developed a new AI chip called AZ2 for the device, which is intended to improve the processing of data on the device and thus the protection of user privacy. Unlike Astro, the Echo Show 15 will soon be available in Germany and will cost 250 euros.
What does this mean for Amazon?
Hardware is not Amazon’s main business. The prices for the devices are just as cost-covering. Devices such as the wireless video doorbell Blink for 60 euros or the Echo Show 15 are intended to establish Amazon as the headquarters of the networked home.
To this end, the Seattle-based technology group is making quite a push into new product categories. The fact that the portfolio is becoming quite confusing and some of the once presented products never come onto the market seems to be priced in. Where Apple struggles to avoid public mistakes, Amazon shoots out of all tubes.
Amazon has well established its Ring surveillance cameras and alarm systems in this way, at least in the USA – the flying Ring home drone is to be delivered one year after its presentation, at least for buyers on an invitation list.
What is missing?
The clear customer benefit. The dream of an Android assistant for the home is ancient, but apart from vacuum cleaner and mopping robots, none has ever prevailed. Low intelligence or inability to avoid obstacles was at best a factor. “Three things are important for private individuals when it comes to robots,” the robotics entrepreneur Paolo Pirjanian told Handelsblatt last year. “The price, the price and the price.“
At $500, Astro may not be cheap enough to attract more people than a few wealthy tech enthusiasts. Only when the robot is able to relieve its owners of tasks in the household, this could change.
To a lesser extent, this even applies to Amazon’s Echo devices. These are used by most users mainly as language-gifted jukeboxes. After all, the function as a family calendar and as a TV when cutting vegetables is an advance.