Amazon takes the first step with household robots

Seattle (dpa) – Amazon wants to become a pioneer in household robots. The first device called Astro has a screen, can capture its surroundings with a camera and microphone and moves around the house on wheels.

«We believe that in five to ten years every household will have at least one Robots will have, »said Amazon’s equipment manager Dave Limp. Until then, the group wants to expand its strong position in the networked home with new devices and functions for its voice assistant Alexa. The device can mainly be used for communication and as a kind of mobile security system. Astro, which is roughly the size of a vacuum cleaner, can also accompany older family members through the house. And he has a cup holder. Limp, who has been testing the robot in his own house for around a year, found a practical use for it: “I can tell him, find my wife” – and Astro then drives a drink from the holder over to her. Small devices can also be connected to the USB-C port next to it – such as a machine that can throw out dog treats.

In order to be useful, the robot must have the faces of the residents Know and recognize the house. Amazon particularly emphasizes that precautions have been taken so that the moving camera does not pose a threat to privacy. Limp, for example, counteracts the concern that the robots can be tapped with a court order to monitor investigations. “We would never give the police access to the device.” Any recordings are only available to users.

The data required to navigate through a home is completely processed on the device and does not go to the cloud. And the user can also specify rooms that Astro is not allowed to enter. And then there is still a tried and tested way of keeping robots out: “There are reasons that there are doors – and Astro cannot open doors,” said Limp.

He himself looks with the help of the device For example, on the go, whether his dogs jump on the sofa when nobody is at home. The robot’s camera can extend to a height of a good one meter so that it can also look over pieces of furniture. A year ago Amazon had already presented a small drone that can fly through the house as a security camera.

A year ago, Astro often crashed into walls and was confused by mirrors, said Limp. In the meantime, navigation through the house works much better. Permanent complex calculations are necessary so that the robot recognizes obstacles and, for example, does not fall down a flight of stairs. Make dollars available. Other companies are also currently working on household robots – and are also thinking about machines with gripper arms that could take on simple tasks Have arms. “We are at a point where we gradually understand the environment in which we operate to the extent that we can do something like this,” said iRobot boss Colin Angle recently. Another key question is how much consumers would be willing to pay for such an innovation. “If it’s 1000 dollars, it would probably be possible.”

Amazon manager Limp is more skeptical about the pace of this development. It will take 10 or 20 years before robots can be built for the household that can use stairs and have arms, he predicted. “You can’t really solve arms these days” – and even a machine that climbs stairs would cost tens of thousands of dollars, “not affordable for the common consumer.”

Amazon decided against becoming one Art of making Alexa on wheels: the robot does not speak to the users itself. If necessary, one of Amazon’s “Echo” loudspeakers can step in.

Here Amazon also added: An “Echo” model with a good 15 inch display is supposed to be serve as a digital pin board for families and a control center for the networked home. With its camera, the device can recognize individual residents of the household and display information tailored to them, such as the appointment calendar. This personalization is optional, emphasized the group.

Amazon wants to expand its role in everyday life in the USA with a smart thermostat for air conditioning for 60 dollars. In addition, a device called “Amazon Glow” was presented, which children can use to play with their relatives. It has a camera and screen and projects interactive games onto a table surface.

With its Alexa software in the “Echo” speakers, Amazon was a pioneer in the use of voice assistants in connected homes. The vision is a household that can support the residents with a variety of smart devices that interact with one another.

As a new building block for this, Amazon presented the possibility of teaching Alexa how to recognize different noises. For example, you can ensure that the software sends a message when it hears the warning sound of an open refrigerator. Previously there were warnings for some noises such as breaking glass.

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