May 12, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Amazon hatching top-secret plans to develop home robot

Amazon is currently working on a home robot called Vesta. The mobile equivalent of the Alexa, it will be designed to move around autonomously and could hit the market in 2019.

 

Having broken into robotics with its fleet of industrial robots, Amazon now has its eyes on the domestic market with a project that it is keeping under wraps. It goes by the name of Vesta, after the Roman goddess of the home. Overseen by Gregg Zeh, who heads up the online trading giant’s research lab, the Vesta project has been several years in the making. The plan is for it to be tested in employees’ homes in 2018 before being launched on to the market in 2019, as reported by the website Objet Connecté.

 

A mobile extension of Alexa

 

Details on the design and functionalities of Vesta have yet to be revealed. According to Bloomberg, the prototype will be fitted with sensors and advanced cameras linked to computer vision software, allowing it to navigate through homes like a self-driving car. “People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices,” said the Bloomberg report.

Vesta is not an Amazon Robotics project. Amazon Robotics focuses solely on the development of industrial robots such as Kiva, which reduces employee fatigue and improves productivity at the firm’s warehouses by moving goods around. Vesta will be a non-specialised domestic robot and is expected to go on sale to the general public at an affordable price.

 

The companion robot, a market waiting to be won

 

At a time when only robot vacuums – a very niche product – have earned a place in homes, the companion robot market that Amazon seems to have its sights set on is still waiting to be conquered. The many projects embarked on to date include PaPeRo, a small Japanese device launched in 2013, and the Korean educational robot iRobi Q, which came into being in 2009. Both were commercial failures.

Though they have spent many years under development, the French robot Buddy and a Chinese counterpart named Zenbo (Asus) have yet to be launched, while LG’s CLOi robot, which was launched at this year’s CES, is still a long way from becoming operational. Only Sony has stepped up as a serious competitor with its robotic dog Aibo, a new version of which has just been launched, though only in Japan to begin with.

 

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