Amazon’s Astro is one of the most interesting devices in its entire product line. The idea of a smart home robot tickles something deep in our psyche, bringing to mind old episodes of The Jetsons. At its Devices & Services event, Amazon announced a ton of new features for Astro that make it more useful than before, and even extend its functionality to small businesses as well. Yet despite all these features and updates, the Astro remains largely impractical for most people.
If you’re going to lose nearly $1,500 on a robot, it needs to do more than look at things.
Many people live in one-story houses. As many live in townhouses or multi-storey or split-level houses. The Astro has some nice features, but it’s a bit limited when you consider that it can’t climb stairs. The Astro can’t do much in terms of home security if it can’t actually survey the whole house. The same goes for its new pet detection feature. If you want to use Astro to monitor your pet when you’re out of the house, it can do so, as long as the pet is on the same floor as the Astro.
I see potential implementations of a drone or a home robot that can go and check if doors and windows are closed and alert you if they’re not, but it needs to account for all types of homes. Astro’s ability to learn the state of an object – whether it’s a locked door or the position of a knob on the stove – is extremely useful and can be a big help in a person living alone, but she must be able to go up and down the stairs. I don’t know if this can be accomplished through the use of extendable arms similar to what Boston Dynamics has accomplished, or through some other method of locomotion.
It just seems like I could set up a security camera system to monitor all the same things Astro did, and potentially for a lot less cost.
If you live in a one-story house, Astro has a lot to offer. The Virtual Security Guard feature links it to Ring’s professional monitoring service. Astro can be dispatched to investigate a triggered alarm or motion sensor and provide Ring’s rapid response agents with a better view of what’s going on. It can also patrol and keep tabs on things on its own, and thanks to new updates it can even send a quick photo or video of what your pet is up to.
Even if you’re in a situation where you could get a lot of use out of Astro, there’s another problem: it’s still invite-only. You must apply to purchase the robot. If you’re selected, you get the $1,000 early bird price, up from the $1,450 it’s supposed to retail for when it becomes widely available. I had hoped to see a more widespread release of the Astro at this year’s event, but that wasn’t in the cards. Still, the announcement was promising. Astro’s new features mean the product is still under development and the current model is the Day 1 Edition. Astro is still on the way, but it’s just not ready yet.
This is speculation, but I suspect Amazon is waiting to see the level of demand for something like the Astro before opening it up for mass purchase. Getting actual usage stats and customer feedback will help the company calibrate it for a wider audience. Of course, if the demand isn’t high enough, Astro might never be available.
One of the main focal points of Astro’s usefulness is how it can serve elderly family members and keep tabs on them through Alexa Together. While conscience is absolutely necessary to care for a loved one while allowing them independence, Astro could do so much more if he only had arms. The ability to pick something up off the ground or just carry things for someone would elevate its functionality far beyond what it is now. Imagine if it could help someone bring groceries from the car, carry a glass of water, or just deliver medicine when it’s time for another dose.
But maybe those arms don’t need to be physical, although that would be ideal. Amazon also announced a new SDK that would allow third-party developers to start designing functions for Astro. By opening up the platform to other companies, Amazon has paved the way for a lot of innovation and creativity.
Astro is an awesome creation, and I can’t wait to see her grow. The smart home has evolved in many different ways, and although it’s a step ahead of where it started, there’s still room to grow – and I think home robots will be at least one of them. aspect.
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