A home robot ‘unlike any other’
Astro, as it’s called, is offered as “a new and different kind of robot” – one that’s designed to help users 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.
Astro, says the company, can be used around the house in various ways, including:
- Check in on the home: When homeowners are away, Astro helps provide the peace of mind that comes with knowing their home is safe. Astro can move autonomously around a home, navigate to check in on specific areas, show users a live view of rooms through the Astro app, or even send alerts if it detects an unrecognized person. If users want to see if they’ve left the stove on, or to confirm they have all the ingredients they need for dinner in the pantry while they’re still at the store, they can send Astro to check or use its built-in periscope camera to take a better look. With Alexa Guard, Astro can also detect the sound of a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, or glass breaking, and send an phone alert.
- Helps look out for loved ones: Astro will be able to help customers who are remotely caring for elderly relatives and loved ones. Their loved one can ask Astro to set and deliver reminders, or users can use Drop In to stay connected. When used with Alexa Together, a new service designed to help family members feel more comfortable and confident living independently, family members can set up Reminders and receive alerts to give caregivers the reassurance that their loved ones are active and going about their day. Alexa Together also gives loved ones 24/7 hands-free access to Urgent Response, a professional emergency helpline.
- Provides peace of mind with Ring: Astro also works with Ring, adding to the peace of mind in keeping a home safe. With Ring Protect Pro, a new subscription service from Ring, users can set Astro to autonomously patrol their home when they’re out, proactively investigate when an event is detected, and automatically save video clips to Ring cloud storage, which users can review from anywhere in the Ring or Astro apps.
- Brings Alexa to users around the home: When users are at home, Astro brings the benefits of Alexa to them, including information, entertainment, smart home control, and more. Astro can follow users from room to room while playing their favorite shows, podcasts, or music. It can also find a user to deliver reminders, let them know that a timer went off, snap a family photo, and notify users of incoming Alexa calls – with the ability to follow a user around the home while they are on the call.
A key challenge when developing Astro was solving how to make sure Astro was able to move autonomously around the house. The technology that gives Astro mobility – Intelligent Motion – uses advances in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) to help Astro understand where it is, and autonomously navigate around dynamic home environments that constantly change.
Using advanced onboard systems to adjust course in real time, Astro can pilot around objects that weren’t on the floor previously – even a few seconds ago. To help personalize the experience, Astro also supports a new computer vision feature called visual ID, which lets household members teach Astro to recognize them so it can deliver a reminder or call to a specific person, or even find someone to bring them an item they’ve put in Astro’s cargo bin.
Astro is built with multiple safety features, and layers of privacy and security to keep users in control of their experience and keep their data safe:
- Advanced safety system: Astro’s system of safety sensors, combined with a dedicated safety processor, works to detect features like stairs and obstacles in real time. For example, control features, such as active and passive braking, can help stop the device if a pet suddenly moves into Astro’s path.
- On-device processing: Astro was designed to handle a lot of the data processing on the device, including the images and raw sensor data it processes as it moves around the home. This helps Astro respond quickly to its environment. In addition, users’ visual IDs are stored on the device, and Astro uses on-device processing to recognize users.
- Out of bounds zones: After Astro is allowed to explore the layout of a home, users can designate areas that are off-limits. These out of bounds zones let Astro know where it’s not allowed to go. When told an area is out of bounds, Astro will avoid entering these spaces, and it will even leave the area if manually placed in an out of bounds zone.
- Microphones/cameras off: Like Echo devices, Astro has a microphones/cameras-off button users can press whenever they want to turn off cameras, mics, and motion. When this button is pressed, Astro cannot move, or capture video or audio, and a dedicated red LED is illuminated to match the red status indicator on screen.
- Clear indicators when streaming features are active: Astro makes it easy to understand what it’s doing at any given moment. It has an easy-to-see LED light on top of its periscope to let users know when it is streaming video or audio to the cloud.
The company says that it used feedback from hundreds of internal testers, and also took inspiration from film, TV, games, and animation principles to develop a persona for Astro that makes it unique.
“Astro’s ability to move not only creates utility and customer benefit—it also presents a new way to experience technology that is fun, entertaining, and engaging,” says Charlie Tritschler, Vice President of Products at Amazon. “During development, we realized giving Astro a personality would make regular interactions more delightful.”
For example, Astro uses its digital eyes on its rotating screen, body movements, and expressive tones to communicate.
“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,” says Tritschler. “In testing, we’ve been humbled by the number of people who said Astro’s personality made it feel like a part of their family, and that they would miss the device in their home after it was gone.”
Astro will cost $1,449.99, but as part of the Day 1 Editions program, it will be available for an introductory price of $999.99 with a six-month trial of the Ring Protect Pro subscription included. Astro will be available in limited quantities, and the company plans to start granting invitations and shipping devices to customers in the U.S. later this year.
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