Amazon's new cyber-pet, Astro, is a clever little robota called. Although Astro is supposed to be a friendly, goofy household helper, it is actually a privacy nightmare and a dysfunctional mess.
Amazon's $1000 bot is described as a domestic assistant, or an Alexa on wheels with a security component. It is what many consider adorable. Motherboard recently reviewed documents and spoke to sources about Astros' inner workings.
It works like this: Users must register the names and voices of anyone who will be entering the house when the robot enters it. This is so the robot knows who is there and who is not. Schmidt stated that Astro was created to manage a lot the data processing, including images and sensor data, as it moves about your home. This allows Astro to respond quickly to changes in its environment. Astro also stores your visual ID on the device and uses it to recognize you.
According to leaked documents, much of this data was collected in order to assist the robots security function. The robot is internally known as Vesta, the ancient Roman goddess of hearth. It can be set into Sentry mode to monitor the home for people and events it doesn't recognize. It will follow a person around the house until it is told to stop, gathering and storing data about them when it encounters them. It's fun!
A document states that Sentry must investigate any unrecognized individual it detects or an Audio Event. If the person is not yet unrecognized, Sentry should attempt to identify them. Sentry should begin following the person until Sentry Mode turns off, once the person has been identified as unknown.
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Motherboard reports that the robot can be paired with an application that allows homeowners to livestream video from their home, even if they're not there.
Vesta intelligently and slowly patrols the house when there are no familiar people around. She moves from scan point to scanner point (the best position and pose in any given space for looking around), and listens to unusual activity, according to another leaked document. Vesta scans a room by moving to a predetermined scan location and posing for it. It also looks past obstacles and around them. Vesta finishes one patrol after scanning the entire floorplan.
Amazon Ring is a home security system that can be used to pair the robot with the robot. This also doubles as an informal surveillance network for local police departments. Astro will respond to Ring events and patrol the house in case of an alarm.
Astro might not be able to function well due to its invasive potential. Multiple people who have worked with the robot in previous iterations claim that it is very limited in functionality.
Astro is a terrible animal and would almost certainly fall down a flight stairs if given the chance. One anonymous developer said that the person detection system is not reliable, which makes the in-home security idea laughable. It feels fragile for a device that costs so much. Multiple devices have had their masts break, locking themselves in an extended or retracted position. There is no way to ship the device to Amazon when this happens.
This makes the purchase of the bot seem both creepy and pointless. It's akin to strapping motorized wheels onto a large camcorder and letting it wander around your house. It can't vacuum.