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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

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

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