Amazon's little Astro robot, nice companion around the house or hell for privacy?

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How far will the giant Amazon go? After becoming the largest online store, marketing first books, then cultural products, then pretty much everything else; after becoming a leader in digital e-readers, computer storage, home automation, connected speakers and voice assistants with Alexa, not to mention Amazon Music and Prime Video, its video service, the firm founded by Jeff Bezos is venturing into a new sector: robotics for the general public.

Le robot Astro d'Amazon
Amazon’s Astro robot Amazon

Security and videoconferencing

At the end of September, Amazon presented its little Astro robot , developed internally by its Lab 75. The device, which combines all the technologies mastered by the company, is the size of a vacuum cleaner surmounted by a screen of 10 centimeters on which information or videoconferencing sessions are displayed. 60 centimeters high, autonomous, obedient to the voice – with Alexa necessarily – he has speakers, a camera, a transport box and above all dozens of sensors that allow it to map your interior very precisely.

Offered by invitation to Amazon customers at a price of 1 000 0 dollars, in the United States first, then about 1 450 dollars then, Astro is designed to secure the home, monitor its environment and therefore also the people there to provide them with help or services.

“A nightmare for privacy”

The uses of this little domestic companion remain to be invented but already, some are worried about the way in which it will collect the very personal or even intimate data of its owners that it is in able to recognize through facial recognition tools. These alerts were issued by some of the project engineers. Internal documents revealed by the MotherBoard site, show that one of them felt that Astro was “a nightmare for privacy”.

Le robot Astro d'Amazon
The Amazon Astro robot Amazon

The robot would also be very fragile and would even have suicidal tendencies, rushing down the stairs at the first opportunity. Others worry that it is not easily hackable … Amazon obviously brushes aside these criticisms and ensures that its robot has undergone rigorous robustness tests at the same time as it respects privacy.

It is not the first time that the general public can acquire small robots but they were more of the game until now like Aibo from Sony or Nao SoftBank. With Amazon, we change dimension. “In five to ten years, every household will have a robot,” predicts Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon.

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