Amazon’s Astro robot is creepy and incredibly stupid
Amazon has a new robot– a cunning little cyber animal called “Astro” who is supposed to be a wacky domestic helper reminiscent of R2D2 but is, in reality, both a privacy nightmare and a dysfunctional mess.
The $ 1,000 bot that Amazon announced today is supposed to be a “home assistant” – essentially an Alexa on wheels, with a security component – and is, on the outside, what some consider adorable. Inside, however, Astro is a cold, hard bundle of wires and gears devoted primarily to retrieving and analyzing as much personal information as possible, depending on motherboard, who recently spoke to sources and viewed documents related to the project.
How it works: When the robot first enters the house, users should “record” the faces and voices of anyone who might be inside the residence, so that the metal creature knows who is supposed to be there and who is not. , reports the point of sale. Kristy Schmidt, senior public relations manager for devices and services at Amazon, told Motherboard that the device collects an immense amount of data about a house and its inhabitants in order to understand how to interact within it. Astro was designed to “handle a lot of the data processing on the device, including the images and raw data from the sensors it processes as it moves around your home,” Schmidt said. âIt helps Astro react quickly to its surroundings. Additionally, your visual ID is stored on the device and Astro uses on-device processing to recognize you.
Leaked documents show that much of this data is collected to help serve the robot’s âsafetyâ function. Called internally in the Amazon under the name “Vesta” (the former home goddess), the robot can apparently be put into “Sentry” mode, which allows it to patrol the house in search of people or events that it does not recognize. When he meets someone whose face he has not yet registered in his database, he proceeds to track them around the house, collecting and storing data on them, until he is told to ‘Stop. Amusing!
“Sentry is required to investigate any unrecognized person detected by it or an audio event if certain conditions are met,” one document said. “Sentry should try to identify the person first if they are still not recognized for more than 30 s. [seconds]. When the person is identified as unknown or 30 seconds have passed, Sentry should start tracking them until Sentry Mode is deactivated.
The robot can also be paired with an app that allows the owner to stream live video from inside the residence while they’re away, Motherboard reports.
“Vesta is slowly and intelligently patrolling the house when an unknown person is nearby, moving from one sweep point to another (the best location and pose in a given space to look around) looking and listening to unusual activity, “says another leaked document. âVesta moves to a predetermined sweep point and poses to sweep any given room, looking past and over obstacles in its path. Vesta performs a full patrol when she has finished scanning all of the scan points on the floor plan.
The robot is also designed to pair with Amazon Ring, the company’s heinous home security device that also serves as a informal surveillance network for police departments across the country. After pairing, Astro would ostensibly respond to Ring-related events, patrolling the house if an alarm went off.
But, on top of all of the product’s invasive potential, Astro may not yet work very well. Several sources who worked on previous iterations of the robot said its functionality was very limited.
âAstro is terrible and will almost certainly throw himself down a staircase if the opportunity presents itself. Person detection is unreliable at best, which makes the home security proposition laughable â, an anonymous developer told Motherboard. âThe device seems fragile for something at an absurd cost. The mast has broken on several devices, locking in the extended or retracted position, and there is no way to ship it to Amazon when that happens.
All of this makes buying the bot sound both scary and unnecessary at the same time, much like attaching motorized wheels to a bulky camcorder and letting it awkwardly roll around your house. The thing can’t even vacuum.