Amazon is reportedly working on its first home robot

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is reportedly developing its first robot for the home, according to Bloomberg. The project has been given the internal codename “Vesta,” named after the Roman goddess of the hearth. It’s being developed by Lab126, the Amazon hardware R&D center that previously built the Kindle, Fire Phone, and Echo.

There are no firm details on what Amazon’s robot looks like or what purpose it will serve, but Bloomberg suggests it could be a sort of “mobile Alexa” — following users around their house to places where they can’t speak directly to an Echo speaker. Prototype robots built by Amazon reportedly have computer vision software and cameras for navigation, and the company is said to be planning to seed devices in employees’ homes by the end of the year. Bloomberg notes that the general public might be able to test such robot prototypes “as early as 2019.”

From such scant details, it’s difficult to know exactly what Amazon is planning, but it’s safe to say that a home robot in this case does not mean some sort of “robot butler able to perform a variety of household chores.” The technology needed for this sort of device just doesn’t exist yet in the commercial sphere (although companies like Boston Dynamics are working on it).

Home robots are often devices like Kuri (above), which is essentially a virtual assistant housed in a mobile robot frame.
Image: Mayfield Robotics

Instead, “home robot” more likely means a virtual assistant housed in some sort of mechanical exterior. Plenty of these have been unveiled in recent years, including LG’s Hub bot, Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri, and the Pixar-like Jibo. These devices are intended to act as a central point of contact for users’ smart home and as personal companions. They let users control Wi-Fi-connected devices, perform tasks like setting timers and searching the web, and have a greater number of interactive games for younger children. Reviews of these “robots” stress that they promise more than they deliver, and indeed, Amazon’s Echo devices already offer the same functionality with less hype.

That being said, a mobile Alexa could still be very useful for Amazon and for users. It would allow the company’s virtual assistant to take on a more personal role, and the spatial information it collected could make Alexa function better. The CEO of iRobot, maker of the Roomba, told The Verge last week that mobile home robots will be more important in the future, with the data they collect used to make smart homes more intuitive. If a robot maps and understands your home, then commands like “turn on the lights in the kitchen” make more sense.

Ultimately, though, it’s too early to guess what Amazon’s intentions are, and it’s completely possible that this research might not make it to a finished product. (Or, indeed, it might just flop spectacularly, like the Fire Phone.) We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment and will update if we hear more.

Comments

Mmmmmm more data for Amazon. Your house layout, rooms, objects & furniture, even your movement through the house. Delicious data!

I noticed your laundry detergent was getting low, I ordered some more for you. Also, those plastic tumblers are so 1994, would you like to look at some more fashionable glassware?

What are they going to do when people start banging the robot?

You’d need to buy unofficial masturbator addons for the robot, from Ama$on

Surely you can just buy more echo dots to cover your house for way less than the cost of this robot

Gotta put cameras in those dots first. Amazon loves cameras where they shouldn’t be.

but what if its also doubles up as a roomba replacement?

There is no need for "cute" robots in the house. Unless they accomplish a task, keep them out and spend some quality time with your kids instead of automating parenting.

You assume everyone has or even wants kids. This has not to do with kids.

who needs a robot when you can train your kids to get beer for you… that’s what I did. Sure its way more expensive long term, but beer delivery is worth it.

Cleaning up poop for 2 years so you can occasionally have someone bring you a beer years later? Sounds like a terrible deal.

That’s why you just train your first kid to pick up the poop of the second!

it could be a sort of "mobile Alexa" — following users around their house to places where they can’t speak directly to an Echo speaker trying to get them to buy stuff

"I notice your TV is more than 12 months old. Would you like to buy a new one?"
"I notice your toaster has crumbs inside it. Would you like to buy a new one?"
"I notice I rolled over your headphones and crushed them. Would you like to buy a new pair?"

Lol at the last one especially…

"I notice you just put on your last condom. Would you like to reorder more?"

"lulz jk I have informed Amazon that you don’t even need condoms."

As long as it can break down my Amazon delivery boxes, count me in!

Honestly seems like a Google Assistant robot would be better than an Alexa robot in their current respective states of AI (and I’m an Alexa user).

It won’t be able to do much at all with the current tech/economy of scale/cost. A Roomba clone that does Alexa too?

I hope they offer a pleasure model. That was the big miss with AWESOME-O.

A Buy Now button on wheels, that follows you around the house.

I shall pass.

Is it designed to just report to the government if certain keywords are detected or murder it’s owners? There is no privacy or due process left in Amerika.

I’d like it to at least vacuum and uh, that’s all I can think of for a robot to reasonably do at this time in my house. It’s not like we’re at the point where they can cook me breakfast or clean the windows.

Reading these comments is hilarious. I’ve never seen so many scared people in my life. What are you all doing that you’re so afraid a mobile webcam is going to see? I love having Echo dots and smart plugs etc. around the house. It makes things super convenient for me. Amazon, the government, etc. is welcome to watch me all day long if they want. I guess Verge readers are all criminals.

NSA is loving it
As if facebook wasn’t enough…
Let’s monitor everything you do at home

View All Comments
Back to top ↑