Along with a raft of other new devices, Amazon has announced a smart robot with a rotating screen that can move around your home on wheels to help with various tasks.
Amazon says “Astro is a new and different kind of robot, one that’s designed to help customers with a range of tasks like home monitoring and keeping in touch with family. It brings together new advancements in artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor technology, and voice and edge computing in a package that’s designed to be helpful and convenient.”
When is the Amazon Astro release date?
There is currently no set release date for Astro with Amazon stating it will "be available in limited quantities, and we plan to start granting invitations and shipping devices to customers in the U.S. later this year.”
Astro will be available exclusively by invitation.
How much does the Amazon Astro cost?
Amazon has confirmed the Astro robot will cost US$999.99 but that’s an introductory price as part of the Day 1 Editions program.
The regular price will be US$1,449.99.
How does the Amazon Astro work?
Essentially, the Astro robot is an Echo Show smart display on wheels. It can move around your home a bit like a tiny Segway and the screen - which looks remarkably like a Lenovo Yoga Tab - can rotate around the main body.
There are also mics, speakers and a built-in periscope camera you can make use of to either interact with Astro in person or control remotely when you’re not at home.
Does Astro run on Alexa? Yes, it uses Alexa technology at the core but Amazon has given the robot its own face via the screen and a different personality up front giving the Astro a different feel to the Echo devices.
Amazon says “Astro uses its digital eyes on its rotating screen, body movements, and expressive tones to communicate” adding that “Astro’s personality not only helps it communicate intent and offer delightful experiences, but it also evokes emotions like empathy when people use the device.”
In terms of movement, Astro is sort of like a very advanced robot vacuum cleaner and uses Intelligent Motion to autonomously navigate around the home. A set of safety sensors (depth and night-vision LEDs) can detect things like stairs and obstacles while simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) helps Astro to understand where it is.
Once Astro has explored and mapped out your home, you can set areas that are off-limits. Astro is only designed for indoor use and there’s no mention of it being able to go up or down stairs.
What can the Amazon Astro do?
Just like you can use security cameras to check on your property, you can do the same with Astro with the dedicated Astro app but navigate around rather than just getting a live feed from a fixed position. A built-in periscope camera extends out of the top on an telescopic pole - up to 42in from the floor.
Astro can also patrol around the home while you’re out to check on many rooms. It will send you an alert for things like an unrecognised person. With the new Ring Protect Pro service, it can save video clips of detected events to your Ring cloud storage.
Amazon suggests Astro as a way of helping you look after someone who might live alone and be venerable. You can Drop In on Astro to video call them and with Alexa Together (a new subscription service coming soon) can make sure they get notifications, create a shopping list and ensure they have 24-hour hands-free access to Urgent Response, a professional emergency helpline for peace of mind.
Like the newly announced Echo Show 15, Astro supports Visual ID so can recognise registered users. This means it can deliver a reminder to a specific person or even something physical if someone put it in the cargo bay and tells Astro who to take it to.
So, it can fetch a beer, it just can’t get it out of the fridge on its own. The detachable cup holder can be replaced with optional extras like a Ziploc container, the Omron blood pressure monitor or Furbo Dog Camera.
Amazon doesn’t state a battery life but Astro has a charging station just like a robot vacuum and will go use it when needed. Charging will take around 45 minutes.
In terms of core specs, the display is 10.1in with an HD resolution (1280x800) with touch input. The bezel camera next to the display is 5Mp and the periscope camera is 1080p with a 132 degree field of view.
There’s also Wi-Fi 5 (11ac) and a 2.1 speaker system.
Astro will indicate when video is being streamed and other privacy features include a button to shut off all mics and cameras. There are three Qualcomm processors on-board as well as Amazon’s own AZ1 Neural Edge chip, not the newer AZ2 found in the Echo Show 15.