Amazon’s New Astro “Monitoring” Robot Follows You All Around the Home

Amazon Astro on a hardwood floor.
Amazon

When shows like The Jetsons imagined the far-off future, they depicted outlandish concepts like robots that followed you around, talked with you, even cleaned your home. Outlandish? Maybe not. Amazon just announced a new home monitoring robot appropriately named the same as the Jestons’ dog—Astro.

Astro is still a far cry from Rosey, the cleaning maid robot. Squint at it, and you might even confuse it for a robot vacuum cleaner from iRobot, but that’s likely no accident. Robot vacuums are the most common robot you’ll find in homes today, so there’s a certain familiarity advantage to his shape and size.

Amazon Astro rolling through a group of people in a kitchen.
Amazon

That’s generally what Amazon wanted in the design. The company said that of the 100 most popular robots, all but five of them had eyes. That led to an easy decision of giving Astro eyes. So what does this robot do exactly? Well, not clean. Think of Astro as more of a monitoring robot. A little more than Alexa on wheels, but not a complete personal care assistant.

Astro can navigate from room to room in your home and follow basic commands like playing music, podcasts, or other Alexa-powered tasks. But again, Astro isn’t supposed to be an Alexa on wheels, so it’s about doing more than that. It’s a monitoring robot.

To that end, Astro has a periscope camera that can rise up high enough to see the tops of most counters. When you’re away from home, you can check to see if the stove is on or interact with your pets. If you have an aging parent, you can have Astro drive to the room they’re in and check in with them. You can even hold video calls through Astro.

Amazon Astro with its periscope camera extended.
Amazon

Astro can also serve as an extension to the Ring home security system and perform automated patrols of your home. It can even save clips to your local Ring storage automatically. Amazon says it spent a lot of time-solving the problem of home navigation, which varies greatly thanks to differing layouts, furniture, and even daily activities like dropping the groceries in the kitchen.

Amazon put work into giving Astro a personality, and that’s why it has a screen with eyes. The expressions should help him feel more like a part of the family than an invasive or creepy robot in the home. During its live event, Amazon even demonstrated Astro dancing and beatboxing. It’s hardly the first voice assistant that told jokes, but it is the first one that could follow you into the kitchen while playing a song. The closest analog is Anki’s ill-fated Vector, and it’s so tiny it can’t move from room to room.

Amazon Astro on a white background.
Amazon

According to the company, Astro will go for two hours (depending on how much it moves) before needing a recharge. Much like a robot vacuum, it comes with a base station it’ll drive to for just that purpose. Thanks to a customizable cubby in its back and a cup holder accessory, Astro can even bring you a drink. Take out the cup holder, and it’s a plain cubby with a USB-C port. In theory, you could recharge your phone, though Amazon envisions third-party-powered accessories for the spot instead.

And while Astro can haul a drink to you, what it can’t do is open a refrigerator or get the glass out. You’ll still need a human for that. Adding arms and “hands” would have significantly increased the price, though. And it’s already kind of pricey. Amazon plans to start Astro off as an invite-only purchase. During the invite states Astro will cost $999.99. And after that, the price will jump to $1,449.99. You can sign up for an invite today.

A personal robot

Astro Home Monitoring Robot

Astro can follow you from room to room, check if the dogs are the couch, or help you video chat with a relative.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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