Your Amazon Echo device and Alexa are pretty great but they’re kind of stuck in one place. Sure, you can set up multiple Echo devices in different areas of your house to have quick and easy access to Alexa, but what if Alexa could just follow you around? Recent job listings give the impression that Amazon is working on some sort of in-home robots, with a consumer launch possibly as early as next year.
Amazon has worked with robots before, most notably with their Amazon Robotics subsidiary. That group is comprised of Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems, and mostly builds robots that help out in Amazon warehouses, moving products around for shipping. This foray into robotics seems to fall under a code name of “Vesta.” Vesta is the Roman goddess of hearth, home, and family, and seems a fitting name for an in-home robot. The project is being run by Gregg Zehr at Amazon’s Lab126 research and development group out in Sunnyvale, California. This is the same group responsible for the popular Echo speakers, Fire TV devices, Fire tablets, and the far less popular Fire phone. That’s still a pretty good track record.
No word yet on what these robots will actually do, though it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll act as mobile Echo devices. Those ever elusive “people familiar with the project” believe that’s a pretty safe bet too:
People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices. Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car. Former Apple executive Max Paley is leading the work on computer vision. Amazon has also hired specialized mechanical engineers from the robotics industry.
So really it’s possible that it’ll just be a portable Echo speaker that follows you around the house. Add in maybe one or two other interesting features and it’ll already do more than any of the in-home robots that companies have tried to release in the past.
Amazon isn’t saying anything on the record, which is to be expected, but those sneaky “people familiar” believe that the company may begin placing testing robots into employee homes as early as the end of the year, with a consumer launch at some point in 2019. It’s also entirely possible that the project could just fizzle out prior to launching anything, we’ll just have to wait and see.Source: Bloomberg