Apr 23, 2018

Amazon jumps into the home robot race

An Amazon Kiva robot, which helps fill orders by bringing shelves of merchandise to Amazon Associates. Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Amazon is secretly testing robots for domestic use, using the same research division that created the Echo and Fire device families, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Brad Stone report.

Yes, but: Amazon is catching up in its pursuit of home robots, not leading the wave. History is replete with latecomers who won anyway, and we don't know what Amazon will actually unveil. But unless it is about to surprise all the private and university labs on the planet, Amazon is actually behind the curve of other countries and companies.

Details:

  • "Codenamed 'Vesta,' after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, the project is overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division based in Sunnyvale, California..."
  • "The Vesta project originated a few years ago, but this year Amazon began to aggressively ramp up hiring. There are dozens of listings on the Lab 126 Jobs page for openings like 'Software Engineer, Robotics” and “Principle Sensors Engineer.'"
  • "People briefed on the plan say the company hopes to begin seeding the robots in employees’ homes by the end of this year, and potentially with consumers as early as 2019..."

Why it matters: Amazon is stepping into a newish, already existing market for home, socially interactive robots, says Henny Admoni, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon. "A lot of people are excited about them, but I wouldn't say Amazon is the first," Admoni told Axios. 

  • Japan, with its fast-aging population, is ahead of everyone in the invention and deployment of robots that work with humans. Most of them are "care robots," and are used mostly in nursing homes
  • In the U.S. market, Amazon's Vesta joins "Kuri," an $899 roaming robot that can be reserved here (its founders showed it around TedX in Vancouver last week).
  • There is also "Jibo," which also costs $899, does not roam, but is available now.
  • Admoni says none of the currently available robots is as good as social robots need to be since they do not truly understand social norms.

Go deeper: The anti-robot uprising is coming

Go deeper

Situational awareness

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Scoop: New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers
  2. Trump misrepresents 2020 Russia briefing as Democratic "misinformation"
  3. Bernie Sanders takes aim at Bloomberg: "Trump will chew him up and spit him out"
  4. Nearly half of Republicans support pardoning Roger Stone
  5. Scoop: Lyft acquires cartop advertising startup Halo Cars

Sanders takes aim at Bloomberg: "Trump will chew him up and spit him out"

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders told CBS "60 Minutes" that he was surprised by Mike Bloomberg's lackluster performance at Wednesday's Democratic debate.

What he's saying: "If that's what happened in a Democratic debate, you know, I think it's quite likely that Trump will chew him up and spit him out."

Scoop: Lyft acquires cartop advertising startup Halo Cars

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lyft has acquired Halo Cars, a small startup that lets ride-hailing drivers earn money via ad displays mounted atop their cars. Lyft confirmed the deal but declined to share any details.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing companies are increasingly eyeing additional ways to generate revenue, and Lyft rival Uber has been quietly testing a partnership with New York-based Cargo that gives it a cut of the advertising revenue, as I previously reported.