Amazon’s new $1,500 robot Astro is deemed a ‘disaster that’s not ready for release’ by its designers, amid fears the bot will ‘throw itself down stairs if presented the opportunity’
- Designers of Amazon’s new robot called it a ‘disaster that’s not ready for release’
- One claimed that Astro will throw itself down stairs ‘if presented the opportunity’
- The $1,500 Alexa-powered household robot was unveiled by Amazon yesterday
- Amazon said claims ‘simply inaccurate’ and bot has undergone ‘rigorous testing’
Designers of Amazon’s new household robot have called it a ‘disaster that’s not ready for release’, with one even claiming that it will throw itself down stairs ‘if presented the opportunity’.
The $1,450 Alexa-powered bot called Astro was unveiled by the company yesterday as an autonomous device that can monitor a person’s home while they are not there.
It can be remote-controlled to check on pets, people and home security, and provide alerts about any disturbances.
But it appears some of its designers are far from convinced the bot will live up to Amazon’s billing.
One person who worked on it called Astro ‘terrible’, while another dismissed Amazon’s promotional pitch that it could help the elderly as ‘absurdist nonsense’, according to Motherboard.
Designers of Amazon’s new household robot Astro have called it a ‘disaster that’s not ready for release’, with one even claiming it will throw itself down stairs ‘if presented the opportunity’
The $1,450 Alexa-powered bot called Astro (pictured) was unveiled by the company yesterday as an autonomous device that can monitor a person’s home while they are not there
Motherboard claims to have seen leaked documents that suggest Astro’s facial recognition system is ‘heavily flawed’, meaning it can struggle to identify whether a person is a stranger or not.
‘The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,’ a source who worked on the project said.
They also said the robot was fragile and that several devices had broken.
Amazon told MailOnline the claims were ‘simply inaccurate’ and that Astro has gone through ‘rigorous testing on both quality and safety’.
After purchasing the robot, customers are asked to ‘enroll’ the faces and voices of anyone who is likely to be in a home so that it can learn who is supposed to be there.
If it then sees someone it doesn’t recognise it will follow them around the house and record audio and video of them before automatically uploading the recording so its user can view it later.
One of Astro’s designers called this data collection ‘a privacy nightmare’, adding that ‘it is an indictment of our society and how we trade privacy for convenience’.
However, Amazon insists Astro has been built with multiple layers of privacy and security controls to keep customer information safe.
It says data sent to the cloud is encrypted and securely stored, while users can define ‘out-of-bounds’ zones to let Astro know which areas of a person’s home are off-limits.
The only way to prevent the robot following someone is to disable ‘stranger investigation’ or if the user tells it to ‘stop moving’.
Astro will also investigate further if it hears something unusual such as glass breaking or a fire alarm.
It has an extendable ‘periscope’ camera that pops up from its head and can carry out tasks such as checking if a gas hob has been left on after a person leaves their home.
Other products announced by Amazon yesterday included the Echo Show 15. It has a 15.6-inch display that you can mount to your wall or place on your counter
It also launched a children’s device called ‘Amazon Glow’ for £240. It combines ‘immersive projection, sensing, and video technologies to make it feel like you’re having fun in-person
Amazon has also suggested that it could help customers who are remotely caring for elderly relatives and loved ones, but the source called it ‘potentially dangerous for anyone who’d actually rely on it for accessibility purposes’.
The robot is available to purchase by invite for people in the US, meaning interested customers have to sign up to have a chance to buy.
An Amazon spokesperson said: ‘These characterizations of Astro’s performance, mast, and safety systems are simply inaccurate.
‘Astro went through rigorous testing on both quality and safety, including tens of thousands of hours of testing with beta participants.
‘This includes comprehensive testing on Astro’s advanced safety system, which is designed to avoid objects, detect stairs, and stop the device where and when necessary.’
Other products unveiled by Amazon yesterday included the Echo Show 15, a children’s device called ‘Amazon Glow’ for them to share an ‘interactive projected space’ with loved ones and a new security doorbell.
WHAT ELSE DID AMAZON UNVEIL AT YESTERDAY’S LAUNCH EVENT?
AMAZON ECHO SHOW 15
The £240 ($250) Alexa-powered Echo Show 15 device boasts a 15.6-inch display that you can mount to your wall or place on your counter.
Users can hang it horizontally or vertically on a wall, like a photo frame, as it displays how-to videos, recipes from the web or shows streamed from Netflix and Spotify.
‘We think of it [Echo Show 15] as a kitchen TV, but much, much smarter,’ said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Alexa and Echo devices.
Echo Show 15 can display a live-stream from your smart doorbell, streaming services interfaces, personalized sticky notes to members of the family and much more.
Echo Show 15 can be mounted either in portrait or landscape orientation and is designed to blend into the surroundings like a photo frame
If you’ve opted to hang it from the wall and want to disable the display, users can ask Alexa to show a photo frame, and Echo Show 15 just shows photos, so it blends into the background.
‘Echo Show 15 brings everything that makes your household tick into one place,’ said Tom Taylor, senior vice president, Amazon Alexa.
It also has a redesigned home screen and Alexa widgets, designed for digital post-it notes and to-do lists in mind.
‘With a redesigned home screen and Alexa widgets, you can customize Echo Show 15 to see your shared family calendar, manage to-do lists and reminders, find meal inspiration, and keep track of your incoming packages,’ said Taylor.
‘Plus, Echo Show 15 can adapt to your home environment with full-screen photos or art, so it’s always there when you need it, but fades beautifully into the background when you don’t.’
Amazon Glow, meanwhile, is a two-part device designed for children that lets them remotely connect with loved ones by participating in activities together.
During video calls on Glow, kids see a chat participants on a dedicated 8-inch display on a black device that looks almost like a retro walkie-talkie.
As they do so, they can be reading stories, playing games, and creating art on a 19-inch, touch-sensitive, ‘projected space’ that almost looks like a sheet of paper.
As children are enjoying engaging activities on the flat ‘projected space’, remote family and friends see the child on a tablet and participate in the same activities using a free Glow app.
Amazon partnerships with Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, Mattel and Disney mean children can choose from a wide range of content
Amazon says Glow combines ‘immersive projection, sensing and video technologies to make it feel like you’re having fun in-person’.
‘Glow brings an entirely new level of fun that lets kids be kids and welcomes grown-ups into an exciting new way to connect and bond, even when they’re far away,’ said Joerg Tewes, general manager for Amazon Glow.
‘We’ve created an unbreakable, supersized, projected surface like no other, fusing digital and physical fun that excites kids and delights grown-ups with all they can do together.’
Amazon partnerships with Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, Mattel and Disney mean children can choose from a wide range of content.
Glow is available at an introductory, early access price of $250, but it’s only for US customers for now.
BLINK VIDEO DOORBELL
The £50 ($50) Blink Video Doorbell is a smart doorbell that features long-lasting battery life, HD day and night video, two-way audio, and chime app alerts to a user’s smartphone.
It’s the first doorbell from Blink, the home automation company that Amazon revealed it had acquired back in 2017.
Customers can sign up at a dedicated page on Amazon’s website to be notified when the device is available for sale.
Pictured, Blink Video Doorbell. Amazon says it can be installed wired or wire-free with the ability to enable two-year battery life, 1080p HD day and night video, two-way audio and chime app alerts
‘The new Blink Video Doorbell provides affordable, easy-to-use, reliable security at your front door, and is the perfect first step for customers looking to build out a smart home security system,’ said Mike Harris, chief operating officer at Blink.
‘Blink Video Doorbell is designed for every home – it comes packed with helpful smart security features like customised motion detection zones to monitor the areas that matter most to you and your family.
‘With the addition of a video doorbell to Blink’s smart security camera line up – including the new Blink Floodlight Camera – you can see who’s at your door, keep an eye out for packages, and protect your whole home no matter where you are.’
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