By: Nick Gambino
Amazon just unveiled their newest offering— a cute little household robot they’re calling “Astro.”
The robot is being touted as a helper around the house who can make life simpler. For example, it employs Intelligent Motion which allows it to navigate your home and go anywhere you need it. You can send him off to another room and check things out or alert you to a person it doesn’t recognize. It’s liking a roaming Ring camera.
It also has a cup holder that allows it to carry things with other attachable accessories, like an OMRON blood pressure monitor, sold separately.
Unfortunately, as soon as Amazon pulled back the curtain on the little guy, some anonymous inside sources came forward and told Vice that Astro is terrible. They report that it’s fragile and glitchy, even throwing itself down the stairs if you let it. Not a good look for a robot that’s going to cost you north of $1,000.
There are also reports from Vice that Astro is constantly surveilling. I don’t think this is particularly surprising. I would expect no less from my robot. It’s necessary for facial recognition and competently executing its sworn duties to me. Though the report does suggest it’s less than stellar at recognizing people. Ironic for a robot designed to help the elderly.
Amazon was quick to refute these reports, sending a statement to The Verge and other outlets.
“These characterizations of Astro’s performance, mast, and safety systems are simply inaccurate,” the statement reads. “Astro went through rigorous testing on both quality and safety, including tens of thousands of hours of testing with beta participants. This includes comprehensive testing on Astro’s advanced safety system, which is designed to avoid objects, detect stairs, and stop the device where and when necessary.”
As you can see, they made sure to point out how the little Astro detects stairs. This is the supposed flaw that’s gone viral. The twisted internet loves the story of a smiling robot that chucks itself headfirst down a flight of stairs.
Now if you want one of these potentially accident-prone (suicidal?) robot helpers you can’t just buy one outright. You’ll have to request an invitation and fill out a survey so they can determine if your house or apartment is a good fit for Astro. It’s like adopting a child.