Amazon appears to have reached the “late-prototype stage” in the creation of its secretive home robot codenamed Vesta, claims a new report from Insider. The device has been under development for around four years and now has more than 800 employees working on it, says the publication. If the robot launches, it will be one of Amazon’s biggest and most ambitious new products, in the mold of the Echo, Kindle, and Fire Phone.
Indeed, it’s comparisons to the latter device, Amazon’s failed smartphone project, that seems to be concerning some of those involved in Vesta’s development. “People are very skeptical — we’re worried it could turn into another Fire Phone,” one of six anonymous sources cited by Insider as “directly involved in the project” told the publication.
As with any unannounced device of this scale, there is an abundance of unanswered questions and uncertain details. The basic premise, though, is that Vesta will be an Amazon Echo on wheels: a voice-activated assistant that can navigate your home, respond to your commands, and interface with other smart home devices.
Insider’s report contains a number of intriguing and speculative details, including the suggestion that the device is the size of “two small cats” — about 10 to 13 inches wide (your conversion may vary depending on your cats). The robot will reportedly be equipped with a screen, microphone, and several cameras. Additional features could include sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, and air quality; a “small compartment” for carrying objects; and a “waist-high retractable pole with a camera” which could be combined with machine vision tech to help users find items around their house like keys and wallets.
Vesta, which is named after the Roman goddess of the hearth, shows Amazon’s ongoing drive to embed its products in the heart of customers’ homes. Over the years, the company has launched a number of devices attempting to extend its reach into kitchens and bedrooms, from the discontinued Dash Wand, which allowed users to order grocery products by scanning barcodes, to the Always Home Cam, a mini-drone announced last year by Amazon-owned Ring that provides mobile surveillance around the house.
Insider says Amazon has been developing Vesta as a “top priority,” but that early sales projections are modest. “Amazon could initially launch it as a limited invite-only product, similar to what it did with its fitness band Halo, according to these people,” says the publication. This could prevent the company from squandering resources on unsold-inventory. Even mobile robots won’t get up and sell themselves.