Amazon Astro could be the robot we've been waiting for
Inspired by science fiction, cute as a button, capable and smart, Amazon's $1,000 home robot Astro is here to help.
Katie CollinsSenior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Has Amazon just made the home robot we've all been waiting for? Sure, we've seen some cool and adorable droids over the years that promise to revolutionize our home lives, but they've largely failed to truly meet our needs. Enter Astro. This autonomous robot, which made an appearance at Amazon's fall event on Tuesday, is inspired by science fiction while incorporating features of Amazon's AI technology.
But what can Astro actually do? To start with, it can map your floor plan, and it can follow voice commands, bringing all the benefits of Alexa to an agile pal who can follow you around on wheels. During its presentation, Amazon pitched Astro as a companion robot who can hang out with elderly parents, throwing them a beatboxing party (if that's their thing), and helping them stay in regular contact with family members and friends via video calls.
Watch this: Amazon's Astro robot is part home helper, part surveillance machine
Thanks to Astro's computer vision, you can also use the robot to check what's going on in your home while you're away. It doesn't look like Astro can play with your pets just yet, but thanks to a dedicated periscope cam that can pop up from the head of the bot, it can check whether your cat is snoozing on the top-most shelf. Among a number of accessories is also a Furbo Dog Camera that can toss treats to your pet. Other accessories include a Ziploc container, an Omron blood pressure monitor and a detachable cup holder. (This last one is the only one included as standard.)
Amazon made a point during its presentation of saying that Astro will respect your privacy. The bot incorporates Alexa's standard privacy features, and owners will be able to denote no-go zones for Astro, and will be able to take advantage of do-not-disturb features to minimize how much Astro moves at certain times of day. That may not be enough to allay the fears of more privacy-conscious buyers, however, who may still be worried about a camera and microphone following them around the house all day.
One thing that's often missing when it comes to home robots is an opportunity to actually buy one. Either they're astronomically expensive, or they turn out to be little more than concept products. Amazon has opened a waiting list for Astro, promising the robot will be available before the end of the year, for $1,000. (UK and Australian prices weren't announced, but that's about £740 or AU$1,380.)
The company is also pledging a long-term commitment to robots, promising there'll be more to come, with Astro 2 already in the works.