Amazon is reportedly working on its first home robot

According to reports, Amazon is developing its first home robot, according to Bloomberg . The project has been given the internal code name "Vesta", which bears the name of the Roman goddess of the home. It is being developed by Lab126, Amazon's R & D hardware center that previously built Kindle, Fire Phone and Echo.

There are no concrete details about what the Amazon robot looks like or what it is for, but Bloomberg suggests that it could be a kind of "Mobile Alexa": follow users from your home to places where can not speak directly to an Echo speaker. According to reports, the prototype robots built by Amazon have computer vision software and cameras for navigation, and it is said that the company plans to plant devices in the homes of employees before the end of the year. Bloomberg notes that the general public might be able to test such robot prototypes "as early as 2019."

Of those few details, it is difficult to know exactly what Amazon plans, but it is safe to say that a domestic robot in this case does not mean a kind of "robot butler capable of performing a variety of domestic tasks". The technology needed for this type of device simply does not yet exist in the commercial field (although companies like Boston Dynamics are working on that).




Domestic robots are often devices such as Kuri (above), which is essentially a virtual assistant located in a mobile robot framework.
Image: Mayfield Robotics

Instead, "home robot" more likely means a virtual assistant housed in some kind of mechanical exterior. Many of them have been presented in recent years, including the LG Hub, Kuri from Mayfield Robotics and Jibo from Pixar. These devices are intended to act as a central point of contact for the smart home of users and as personal partners. They allow users to control devices connected to Wi-Fi, perform tasks such as setting up timers and searching the web, and having a greater number of interactive games for younger children. Reviews of these "robots" emphasize that they promise more than they offer, and in fact, Amazon Echo devices already offer the same functionality with less advertising.

That said, an Alexa phone could 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 gathered could make Alexa work better. The CEO of iRobot, manufacturer of Roomba, said The Verge last week that mobile home robots will be more important in the future, with the data they collect and 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, however, it is too early to guess what Amazon's intentions are, and it is entirely possible that this research will not reach a final product. (Or, in fact, it could have a spectacular flop, like the Fire Phone). We have communicated with Amazon to comment and update if we hear more.