While Amazon is generally recognized for its Ring brand of doorbell camera home security systems, the business debuted a more mobile and significantly cuter monitoring platform, Astro, last year. The $1,500 robot (now on sale for $999) is effectively an Alexa on wheels, moving around your home like an AIBO that controls your calendar and functions as a security dog. Amazon introduced several new capabilities for Astro on Wednesday, including one that can now identify the presence of your real cat or dog.
The new feature, expected later this year, will activate while the Astro is “on patrol” around your home. Astro will capture a little video clip of your pet when it encounters them and share it with you via Live View (part of the Alexa Together system).
During the event, Ken Washington, vice president of Consumer Robotics, stated, “You can use Live View to tell your dog to get off the couch, or you can take a photo of them to add to your pet scrapbook.” We believe this service will be especially valuable because it provides a live connection to your dogs, allowing you to have peace of mind wherever you are.
Astro is also developing his situational awareness. The robot can already map out its patrol routes across your home, but with the additional multimodal AI capabilities, Astro will actively pay attention to “items in your home that you want it to learn about” and better alert you if something is amiss. Astro will essentially learn by observing an object (e.g., a door) and listening to your description of it (e.g., “that door should always be closed”), then incorporating this knowledge into its monitoring duties. If the Astro identifies a problem, it will take a picture of it and email it to you along with a request for additional instructions.
Amazon is also offering a new SDK for developers that are eager to add custom features to their own Astro. There is currently no information on when it will be made available to the public. The Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan, three of the world’s best robotics schools, will be the first to get an early version of the SDK. More official Astro features are forthcoming, according to Washington, and once they are ready, they will be made available via over-the-air software updates.