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Meet Amazon’s Astro, a robot assistant that follows you everywhere

Well we weren’t expecting that. Amazon has revealed the products and services it has to offer in the months ahead, and it previewed an Alexa-powered robot with wheels that looks a little bit like Wall-E and is called Astro.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much in common with Astro Boy (well, apart from being a robot), with Amazon’s Astro a robot patrol dog who looks after your home when you’re not there.

Intended to be a “new and different kind of robot” – probably in that it doesn’t want to destroy humanity – Astro aims to help customers via a range of tasks such as monitoring your home and keeping in touch with family members. It can play audio, it can play video and has a rear payload area that third-party companies have been encouraged to make accessories for.

It takes advantage of new advancements in artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor technology, as well as voice and edge computing, packed in a robot that’s the size of a small dog.

Amazon Astro on patrol

Astro can move autonomously around a house, detecting obstacles like stairs and tables, navigating to check on specific areas and can even show you live views of rooms through the Astro app – or send alerts when it comes across a person it doesn’t recognise.

Say if you’ve left something on in the house and want to check, Astro’s built-in periscope camera enables you take a look. Even more incredible (or crazy), Astro – through Alexa Guard – can detect smoke/carbon monoxide alarms and glass breaking, and sends an alert to your phone.

Other features Amazon mentioned include Astro being used to help customers who “are remotely caring for elderly relatives and loved ones”. It can patrol your house and investigate “events” like a 1940s gumshoe with its Ring Protect Pro feature and there is, of course, Alexa. Astro can play your favourite shows, podcasts and music as it follows you around the house.

Amazon Astro with people

There’s privacy controls integrated so you can set out of bound zones to indicate areas that are off-limits; as well as turn the microphones and camera off like you would with an Echo device so Astro isn’t always snooping. With its LED light on top of its periscope, you can tell when Astro is streaming video or audio to the cloud.

Astro is not particularly affordable, though. Nor does it look like it’ll be made available outside of the U.S for the time being. Amazon is offering Astro as part of Day 1 Editions, a program where customers can sign up to register their interest in Astro and receive an invite when it’s ready to ship. If you’re an early bird, Astro will cost $999.99, and a six-month trial of the Ring Protect Pro subscription will be bundled in.

Otherwise, Amazon’s Astro will cost a rather eye-watering $1449.99 for those who don’t register as part of Day 1 Editions when it starts shipping to U.S customers later in the year.

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