Amazon's Astro robot is part home helper, part surveillance machine
Speaker 1: This is Astro Amazon's new home robot by day. It's cute little helper, but when you're not around, it turns into a roving security robot. Keeping an eye on everything.
Speaker 1: Imagine all of Amazon's best known products. Alexa, speakers, ring cameras, smart home integration. Now smush them all into one robot whack on [00:00:30] some wheels and give it a cute face. That's Astro Amazon's smart robot assistant designed to help you around the home when you're there and keep an eye on things. When you're not unveiled Astro at its livestream September event, adding the robot to a lineup that already included a lot of security cameras, alarm systems, and even a surveillance drone at first look, Astro doesn't necessarily look like a home security device. It's more Wally than wall camera, but [00:01:00] it's definitely been desire with security in mind. Starting with those roving wheels, Astro can move autonomously around your home or navigate to specific rooms to check on things. Even
Speaker 2: In homes, as electrified as mine. There are still lots of things my home can't do because my devices are stationary. This robot changes all of that. With eye view and the app, you can send it to check on specific rooms, things, people,
Speaker 1: Even pets, it's not just [00:01:30] limited to patrolling one or two feet off the ground either. It has a telescoping camera that stretches out from the top more than doubling its height and allowing you to look up onto kitchen benches over table. And according to Amazon check, if the dogs are sitting on the couch, of course, that begs the question, why your dogs aren't actually keeping an eye on your house and you had to hire a robot instead, but I'll just leave that aside. The camera isn't just for letting you watch your home via the app. Thanks [00:02:00] to Astros onboard processing. This robot can also so recognize its environment and it will let you store your own visual ID on the device. So the robot can detect you and others inside your house. That means you could put an item in Astro's cargo bin and send it to your husband down the hall, or the robot can roam your house while you're away and work out.
Speaker 1: Whether a person is a family member or an unwelcome stranger Astro also ties into Amazon's existing security [00:02:30] services to become an all in one surveillance machine. For example, with the ring protect pro subscription service, Astro can automatically save video clips to your ring cloud storage and thanks to the microphones and built in Alexa guard security system. It'll be able to detect the sound of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and even breaking glass, and then alert you intelligent processing is also a big selling point of Astro. It uses something [00:03:00] called simultaneous localization and mapping or slam to navigate around your house. That allows it not to just detect obstacles like couches or stairs, but Amazon says it can recognize and pilot around objects that weren't on the floor yesterday, or even a few seconds ago. Amazon doesn't just want Astro to keep an eye on your home.
Speaker 1: The company says it can also be used as a sort of in-home care companion to help look after loved ones. So you could call your elderly [00:03:30] parent and the robot would find them in their house so they can take the call or you could set up a smart routine so you can get notifications when your family is up and about for day, that's using a new Amazon service known as Alexa together. It's $20 a month and offers things like full detection, 24 7 access to an urgent response helpline and the ability for families to set up custom alerts and reminders for relatives living in their home. If you don't wanna buy a robot for grand park just yet, Alexa [00:04:00] together is coming to other echo devices in the us, not just Astro. Now, Amazon doesn't just want this robot to be all about security and safety insert gift of Astro saying I'm not a regular robot.
Speaker 1: I'm a cool robot. That's right. Astro can jam down to music. It can play your favorite shows and podcasts as it follows your around the house. And because it's integrated with Alexa, you can do things like set reminders, control your smart home and even get notifications. When you have Alexa calls coming [00:04:30] through, think of Astro, kind of like Amazon built into a preschooler. It's short, it's cute. It follows your around the house. And it's always ready to answer your questions about dinosaurs, but that feels really deliberate by Amazon. They want this robot to feel cute and comfortable, not creepy.
Speaker 2: We learned early on in this program that customers don't just want Alexa on wheels to that end, we've embodied it with a unique persona. That is all it's up from [00:05:00] adding eye is to the display to a whole host of sounds. The device really comes alive. Let me give you a quick example, Astro beatbox. I just love that one.
Speaker 1: Uh, uh, sure. Look, I love a beatboxing toddler robot as much as the next person, but the idea of having an autonomous [00:05:30] security bot patrolling around your house. Well, it raises some pretty serious questions about privacy. Amazon says that Astro is all about providing peace of mind, but when you start out to mention security, tie-ins with ring, it's hard to ignore that company's privacy record. As my colleague, David priest has reported, the company has come under serious fire in recent years for security issues, as well as partnerships with local police, there are reports ring, let employees watch [00:06:00] its customer videos. And then there are the company's ties with the NSA ring has certainly taken steps to improve some of its policies, including changing how police can access camera footage, but organizations like the electronic frontier foundations say that ring is as essentially building a growing surveillance network of millions of public facing cameras.
Speaker 1: Now with Astro, Amazon is bringing more cameras inside the home and letting them follow you around the house. Not [00:06:30] to mention rings, flying camera drone, which is bringing a whole new aerial dimension to home surveillance. Amazon said is that there will be privacy features built into the Astro, like the ability to set out of bound zones, a button that turns off cameras, mics, and motion, and an L E D light that indicates when the robot is streaming video or audio to the cloud. But ultimately this is still just more cameras and microphones inside your home on wheels. And how you feel about [00:07:00] that probably comes down to how you feel about the trade off between privacy and convenience is Astro just a handy little helper designed to be there when you need it, or is it a glorified, autonomous security robot with acute face slapped on, but that may not even be the, the deciding factor on whether you buy Astro at $1,500.
Speaker 1: This robot doesn't come cheap. Amazon is offering it for a thousand dollars from later this year as part of its early access day [00:07:30] one editions program. That also includes a six month trial of ring protect pro, but it will only be available by invitation. So it could be a while before we see Astro on shelves. And that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you value privacy and convenience and beatboxing robots. All right. That's it from me. If you wanna check out more on Amazon and ring, I've got some cool videos for you here and make sure you hit me up in the comments. Do think this is a great [00:08:00] robot or is it kind of a weird vision of the future? Love to hear what you think.