While Amazon is widely known for its Ring brand of doorbell camera home security systems, the company last year introduced a more mobile, and way more adorable, monitoring platform: Astro. The $1,500 automaton essentially serves as an Alexa on wheels, trundling about your home like an AIBO that also manages your calendar and doubles as a guard dog. On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled a new iteration of Astro, one that can now detect the presence of your real cat or dog.
The new feature will trigger while the Astro is “on patrol” around your home. When it encounters your pet, Astro will capture a short video clip of them and share it with you via Live View (part of the Alexa Together system).
“You can use Live View to tell your dog to get off the couch, or you can take a picture of what they’re doing to add to your pet scrapbook,” Ken Washington, vice president of Consumer Robotics, said during the event. “We think this feature will be especially useful by providing a live connection to your pets so that you have peace of mind about them, no matter where you are.”
Astro is also gaining some added situational awareness. The robot can already map out its patrol routes through your home but, with a new multimodal AI capability, Astro will actively pay attention to “things in your home that you want it to learn about—and better notify you if something isn’t right,” Washington said. Basically, Astro will learn by looking at an object (say, a door) and listening to you speak about it (“that door should always be closed”), then incorporate that information into its monitoring duties. If it comes across an issue, the Astro will snap a picture of it and text it to you with a request for further instructions.
For those of you itching to add bespoke features to your own Astro, Amazon is also releasing a new SDK. There’s no word yet on when it will be made publically available. Washington noted that “to start, we’ll begin working with three of the world’s leading robotics schools later this year—the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan—to put an early form of the SDK into their students’ hands.” More official Astro features are in the pipe, Washington assured, and once they’re ready, they’ll be made available as OTA software updates.
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