We got to see Amazon’s latest gadget early — it’s the long-rumored robot.
We spent about 50 minutes with Astro. Like robots of the past (some have fizzled out; others have gone extinct like Anki’s Vector and Cozmo robots), it focuses on peace of mind in the likes of home monitoring and checking in on household members, along with providing entertainment. At the heart of Astro is Amazon’s smart assistant and artificial intelligence chops — so, yes, Alexa is on board just with an “Astro” wake word so that you can ask for the weather, a question or to go to a specific room.
So let’s break down Astro, what it can do and what we think after seeing this unique robot up close.
Jacob Krol/CNN Amazon’s Astro is the first home robot from the company and is being introduced after four years in development. Like previous Amazon firsts, it will be available as a Day 1 product. So if you’re interested you can sign up and you might receive an invite to order one. It’s also available for an introductory Day 1 price of $999 versus the normal $1,449 price. Either way, it’s not something you’ll drop cash on willy-nilly.
Astro is a relatively small robot that comes to below my knee (I’m 5 feet, 4 inches tall) when sitting. Astro can move at up to 2 miles per hour when cruising through your home. This robot cannot go up stairs, but it can handle a switch from hardwood or tile to carpet with ease. In the front, right under Astro’s face, which is a 10-inch display, are two large drive wheels. The rear of Astro has a rotating tiny wheel, which helps it turn. It’s a thicker build in the front that slims out a bit as you move to the end of the build.
Jacob Krol/CNN Astro’s internals are all housed inside, but there’s a trunk of sorts in the back. It features a USB-C port for charging another device; this way, you can leave your phone charging in the trunk. Out of the box, Amazon will ship Astro with a cup holder. So theoretically, you can place a drink in Astro and send it to someone. Amazon also informed us that third parties will be crafting solutions for Astro’s trunk space. Furbo, the popular dog camera that lets you shoot treats out, will offer a model that fits in the back of this robot. Ziploc will make containers that perfectly fit, and Omron will create health care solutions like a blood pressure sensor. These accessories will cost extra, though.
Jacob Krol/CNN Like a car (Hyundai, BMW or Tesla) or robots before this, there are an abundance of sensors built into Astro. Ultrasonic sensors and cliff sensors help it stay on course and to detect obstacles. It also features depth cameras, which help it calculate the distance between objects, along with standard motion sensors. All of these come together to let Astro navigate safely around your house — it also prevents the robot from bumping into you.
Built into Astro’s 10-inch screen is a 5-megapixel camera — and like the Echo Show, it sits at the top bezel. Behind the display is an arm that holds it in place, and it is kind of like the mast of a ship. Yes, the display can be moved electronically or physically by your hand — it can be tilted top down up to 60 degrees, and left to right by 45 degrees either way. The top of this center mast has a circular LED ring that will glow Blue when Astro is engaged along with a button to disable the microphones and cameras. When you hit that, Astro becomes immobile.
Jacob Krol/CNN Here’s the wild thing, though — this center mast can extend up 42 inches with a periscoping 12-megapixel camera on top on its own. You won’t need to manually extend with your hand, as you can ask Astro to extend or control it via the companion app. This is enough to reach over the average counter height and lets you use Astro to get a view. It’s a pretty smooth operation to raise or lower the periscope as well. It will glow green with an LED indicator, when someone is actually viewing it, and Astro’s screen will show which device is viewing it. The periscope needs to be fully lowered for Astro to move as well.
Jacob Krol/CNN Pro tip: If you ask Astro to beatbox, not only will the robot dance around with the display moving, but the periscope will move in or out. You’ll also hear the side-firing 2-inch neodymium drivers along with a passive bass radiator, which create sound for Astro.
Like a robot vacuum, Astro will charge on a dock that it can navigate to by itself when its power is low. Amazon says it will take about 45 minutes to fully charge Astro, and that you can watch a full-length movie or take a two-hour video call on the device with ease.
So Astro is a home robot with a lot of technology inside — it’s also powered by a dedicated processor for safety features and a Qualcomm processor for all sorts of tasks. With the camera on the screen, Astro will begin to recognize faces through Visual ID when the feature is enabled. This will let Astro know who you are and other members in your family. It’s not as advanced as Apple’s Face ID, as it only uses basic facial features to recognize a face. In our demo, it could recognize two Amazon employees even with face masks on. As Amazon announced as well, Visual ID will be arriving on select Echo Show devices.
Jacob Krol/CNN Since Astro is technically not an Echo, it can’t use the same wake word that you’d normally use to get an Echo speaker or display attention. In this case, you say, “Astro,” then make your request. But know that it’s tapping into the same smarts to get you an answer. Astro is basically a roving smart assistant that can follow you around or be ready at a moment’s notice. You can ask Astro for the weather, how it’s doing, to give you a daily briefing, control your smart home, tell a joke, play some music and even fire up a TV show or movie. The 10-inch screen was pretty vibrant in our brief hands-on and definitely on the same level as an Echo Show 10. It will also work to tilt and pan at a proper angle with whomever made the request.
Like a good Disney character, Astro has a bit of personality. Two eyes on the display are color-matched to Alexa’s blue color, and they’ll show gaze, move the direction Astro will turn and generally make this personality a bit more personal. Yes, it’s a robot, but it can also read a room. If you call it over to ask a question and then forget about it, Astro might just leave and roam somewhere else. Amazon also informed us that Astro will check up on people as well.
So aside from Alexa on wheels, what can Astro do? Well, it’s a home monitoring device in the same vein as Ring’s Always Home Cam — this just sticks to the ground, which frankly is less intimidating. When you first get Astro, you’ll set it up via the Astro app (available for Android and iOS) and physically need to pair your phone with the robot — it’s an extra step and an important privacy one. You’ll then give Astro a tour of your home so that it can map the space, and like a Roomba, you can name the rooms and even adjust barriers. You’ll also have the option to block off certain areas to prohibit Astro from navigating there.
Jacob Krol/CNN Since Astro will know your home and have cameras, it will also integrate with Ring Protect Pro and show up as a camera in the Ring app at times. When engaged, Astro will patrol your home and can navigate to where an event might have been triggered. Video captured by Astro will be uploaded to the Ring’s storage for posterity and can be easily viewed. To a degree, Astro is also an add-on for your Ring system thanks to this.
Even if you don’t opt for the Ring integration, Astro will still just drive around your home, and you can even take control or tell the robot exactly where to go. Once it has arrived at the de
We just tried out Amazon’s $1,000 robot: Here’s what you need to know
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