Amazon is apparently working behind closed doors on their next major technological step. After the Kindle and the Echo Amazon is working hard to make robots affordable for the home. The development is apparently going well, because according to the sources there is a chance that the first robots will be tested this year by employees and that in 2019 we could already buy such a thing.
Then we are talking about more than a Roomba that can vacuum. According to sources within the company the project with the code name ‘Vesta’ (the Roman goddess of the domestic fireplace) under the direction of Gregg Zehr is busy creating a real homely robot. Zehr’s lab, called Lab126, was previously responsible for the Echo speakers, and the Fire line of products such as set-top boxes, tablets and the not-so-successful phones.
What the Vesta robot is going to do is still unclear: there is talk that the robot could be a kind of mobile Alexa that can move with you in parts of your living space where no Alexa is available. However, that seems to be a very limited application of a robot that can move through your home with the aid of cameras and sensors without assistance. It refers to self-driving cars through the sources within the project, so perhaps such a robot would have a LiDAR .
Amazon already uses a lot of their own robots in their department stores, but they have nothing to do with this project. That is a separate company that was bought up in 2012 and renamed Amazon Robotics.
Robots that do something in and around the house are becoming more and more interesting for companies, but it turns out to be difficult to make something that really works. Things like Sony’s Aibo are funny, but in the end the self-propelled vacuum cleaners like the Roomba are ultimately the only variant where people were really waiting in large numbers.
Robots and AI
Amazon has the mass to produce a robot that can do something useful in large numbers and can afford to sell it against a wafer-thin or negative margin. Since the robot market has a growth forecast of around 10 billion in the next five years for consumers, an early (and successful) introduction of Amazon could again ensure that they are at the forefront of the race. And if you have both AI and physical robots … then a real help in the household is perhaps a lot closer than we think.