Amazon ‘Developing Robot For Consumers’

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The move follows the $1bn acquisition of smart doorbell maker Ring, as Amazon delves further into the home

Amazon is developing a top-secret robot project for the home, and could begin testing the product with consumers as early as next year.

The company has broken ground with other hardware developed in-house for consumers, including the Kindle line of readers, Fire television television gadgets and tablets and Echo smart speakers.

The robot project, code-named “Vesta” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, is being developed by the same Lab126 research lab in Sunnyvale, California, that produced those consumer devices, according to Bloomberg.

The Vesta project began several years ago, but Amazon has begun accelerating its development this year.

The iRobot Roomba 980 with Alexa integration

Autonomous movement

It has placed dozens of job listings on the Lab126 jobs page for positions related to robotics and sensors, and sources told Bloomberg the company may begin testing the robots in employees’ homes this year, followed by consumer testing next year.

Amazon declined to comment.

It isn’t clear what the robot would do, but prototypes have advanced cameas and computer vision features and can navigate autonomously through homes.

It could include Alexa voice-activated assistant features similar to those built into Amazon’s smart speakers, perhaps following users around the home to take orders.

To date, the only breakout success in consumer robotics is iRobot’s Roomba automated vacuum cleaner – newer models began receiving Alexa integration last year, allowing users to launch the device via a voice command to an Echo speaker.

iRobot’s shares fell by up to 8.6 percent on Monday following the Bloomberg report, closing 6.15 percent down.

Home invasion

Amazon’s biggest previous association with robots has been its acquisition of Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775 million (£556m). The company, now called Amazon Robotics, deploys robots in Amazon warehouse to help automate the movement of goods.

Research and Markets has estimated strong growth for the consumer robot market, which it believes will be worth about $15bn a year by 2023, up from $5.4bn this year.

Earlier this month Amazon completed the purchase of smart doorbell maker Ring, for which it reportedly paid more than $1bn. That acquisition is thought to be part of a strategy to delve deeper into home services such as grocery deliveries, potentially integrating with a new service called Amazon Key that allows couriers to place items inside a customer’s home.

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