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  • - [Jennifer] Astro do the robot dance

  • - [Astro] Astro robot dance.

  • (upbeat music begins)

  • - A month ago, I welcomed a new addition to my household.

  • Now along with my husband, my two kids, one dog, one cat,

  • one bunny rabbit, and seven outdoor chickens,

  • I've been living with an Astro, Amazon's first home robot.

  • And it's designed to be a helpful assistant

  • for your everyday life.

  • It's essentially an autonomous Alexa

  • on some souped up wheels,

  • and when it goes on sale it will cost $1,450.

  • But right now you can ask to road test the robot

  • in your own home for the bargain price of a thousand bucks.

  • As a very busy mom, wife,

  • and full-time reviewer at The Verge,

  • this robot has become that extra pair of eyes

  • I've always wanted to help keep track of my brood.

  • But if only it could be an extra pair of hands as well.

  • Astro is a small robot, just under a foot and a half,

  • and it roams around your house largely at will,

  • tilting its face,

  • which is a 10 inch echo show style touchscreen,

  • up and down disarmingly, and winking,

  • or smiling at you with its digital eyes.

  • Which are two glowing circles that resemble the Alexa ring

  • on an echo smart speaker.

  • Two large white wheels make up most of its robot body,

  • along with a small cargo area that yes can carry a beer.

  • Like a regular echo speaker,

  • you can ask Astro to play music through its two speakers,

  • set timers, stream an episode of Buffy, lock the front door,

  • or call your mom for a video chat using a built in camera.

  • What's different, is it can do

  • all of these things on the move.

  • As I'm roaming around the house, picking up shoes,

  • making dinner, feeding the dog, Astro could come with me

  • keeping me constantly entertained.

  • Well, in most rooms of the house.

  • Dismissive Alexa on wheels comments aside,

  • this is an actual robot.

  • Not a quasi home robot like most robot vacuums are.

  • And unlike most Alexa speakers,

  • Astro does a lot of its data processing

  • in its own little brain rather than using the cloud.

  • This helps it be a lot snappier and a smidge more private.

  • Astro is packed with navigation and obstacle sensors,

  • that feed its visual simultaneous localization and mapping,

  • and obstacle avoidance systems,

  • which in English means that after it's mapped your home,

  • it can mosey around easily without backing into chairs,

  • tables or walls, or falling downstairs.

  • And it can seriously move.

  • It's way faster than robot vac.

  • And while it's top speed is only one meter per second,

  • that feels really fast in your living room.

  • It also never once got stuck

  • unlike every robot vacuum I have ever tested ever.

  • And while a robot vacuum

  • is the closest comparison I have to Astro,

  • it uses similar mapping and navigation technology

  • and I've spent a lot of time with robot vacuums,

  • Astro is much much smarter.

  • First off it doesn't bang into my feet all the time.

  • Instead it's able to follow me around

  • without getting in my way.

  • It rarely gets stuck.

  • Besides that one time it came face to face

  • with my daughter's standup base

  • and wisely sat motionless next to the $5,000 instrument,

  • until I came and rescued it.

  • It also maintains a respectable distance from dogs,

  • backpacks, and any other stuff

  • that happens to be lying on the floor in its path,

  • and just reroutes.

  • When it's got nothing to do,

  • it goes and finds a spot to hang out,

  • which used to be right in between my stove and fridge.

  • And while it supposedly learns

  • where you don't want it to be,

  • it does appear to be something of a slow learner.

  • When no one is around,

  • it takes itself off to its charger to chill.

  • All of this autonomous movement

  • was actually the creepiest part

  • of having Astro in the house.

  • It's big glowing eyes

  • would just suddenly appear over the couch,

  • or I'd hear rumbling as it rolled over the carpet

  • onto the hardwood floor.

  • It does take some getting used

  • to having a robot free ranging in your home.

  • So what's the point of Astro?

  • That was the main question I had

  • during my four weeks living with Amazon's bot.

  • While I enjoyed my entertainment moving around with me,

  • I live in a three storey house

  • and this robot can't do stairs.

  • A pair of decent headphones,

  • or apple airplay is a better slash cheaper solution.

  • My kids enjoyed a few of the robot games

  • and my husband loved the idea

  • of Astro delivering him a beer,

  • but the beer fridge is outside where Astro can't go

  • and this robot has no hands.

  • The dog and cat Gus and Smokey,

  • who were both deeply suspicious about Astro's existence,

  • did warm up a bit once it started throwing them treats

  • from the Furbo pet camera we attached

  • to Astro's USBC charging port.

  • But Furbo works perfectly fine when it's not sitting

  • in a thousand dollar robot.

  • Astro definitely has more personality than Alexa

  • which is not hard, but it's no Jibo.

  • It's facial expressions are limited,

  • and it rarely does more than just widen its eyes,

  • which really feels like a missed opportunity.

  • I also didn't like that mostly it was Alexa that answered

  • when we spoke to Astro.

  • - Astro show my ring doorbell camera.

  • - [Astro] Okay.

  • - [Jennifer] Astro itself has a very limited range

  • and no voice beyond a small series of bleeps and bloops.

  • When you talk to it, 80% of the time Alexa responds

  • and does just normal Alexa stuff

  • that you can do with a hundred dollars smart display.

  • - [Astro] A few things share the name front door doorbell,

  • which one did you want?

  • - The things Astro does better than Alexa

  • are limited but they do exist.

  • When you set a timer or a reminder,

  • it will come and find you to deliver it to you.

  • And after we taught it to recognize

  • every member of our household,

  • it was somewhat useful in tracking them down,

  • as long as they were on the right floor.

  • But here is where Astro was most useful to me

  • as a smart home camera.

  • Not so much from a security perspective

  • although that's a use case,

  • but really as a second pair of eyes

  • to keep track of my kids, the pets, and the home.

  • If I hear the telltale creek

  • of the kitchen snack cabinet opening before dinner,

  • while I'm on a zoom call in my office,

  • I can just open the Astro smartphone app

  • and send the robot to pier over my daughter's shoulder

  • with its camera that pops out of the top.

  • And that can disrupt her ambition to eat

  • five spoonfuls of Nutella.

  • While I'm waiting in the school car line

  • to drop my daughter off,

  • I can send Astro to the bottom of the stairs

  • and blare its siren at my son

  • who still hasn't got out of bed.

  • If I'm out of the house and my kids are home alone,

  • Astro can go on patrol

  • and alert me if it sees any unfamiliar teenage faces.

  • It will also chase them around

  • which is madly entertaining.

  • If the family is out, I can send Astro to hang out with Gus

  • and play him some music, maybe toss a treat or two.

  • A lot of these things can be done

  • with existing smart home cameras or smart speakers,

  • but because Astro can move, it replaces all of them

  • and means I don't need to have

  • eight different cameras in my home,

  • which is not something I have ever wanted.

  • But there are always those times

  • when you want to check in on something

  • and that one camera you set up

  • just doesn't quite show you what you need to see.

  • Astro makes it easy to see everywhere

  • on one floor without having multiple cameras.

  • But Astro is not the home robot