Thursday, October 07, 2021

Astro the Robot

Amazon has invented a household robot called Astro, described as about the size of a small dog. It's "Alexa on wheels" but a bit more:

Amazon Robot

Astro can roll around the house with its camera, on a 42-inch arm, enabling you to keep an eye on children from another room. Or you can view your home remotely when you're away. You might use this feature to check on a vulnerable family member who lives alone. Like a tablet, it can play videos and access the internet. Like Alexa, it can answer questions. Its screen can be used for video chatting.

It can't navigate stairs, although (like the Roomba) it knows not to fall down them. Unfortunately, it can't pick up things. I suspect that ability will come along sooner or later. It can carry small objects from room to room, though, if a human user loads the objects, and facial recognition allows Astro to deliver its cargo to another person on command. It could be remotely commanded to take medication or a blood pressure cuff to that elderly relative who lives by herself.

Amazon's goal is for Astro to become a common household convenience within ten years. Even if you have $999 to spare, you can't order one right now. The device is being sold only to selected customers by invitation. Amazon's vice president of product says the robot wasn't named after the Jetsons' dog. The first possible origin for the name that occurred to me, however, was the robot Astro Boy, from a classic early anime series.

Considering the way people talk to their pets as if the animals can understand, I can easily imagine an owner carrying on conversations with Astro almost like an intelligently responsive housemate.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt


  1. I confess to being disturbed by the lack of privacy with devices like these.

  2. I suppose there is the risk of hacking, but that applies to anything we do that's connected to the internet. I hope the manufacturers of such devices will build in strong safeguards. However, I'm cautious enough at present to NOT use something like a tablet, that could be easily lost or stolen, to visit sites such as banks and credit cards.