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.


  • "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

Primary elections test impact of protests, coronavirus on voting

Election official at a polling place at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the midst of a global pandemic and national protests over the death of George Floyd, eight states and the District of Columbia held primary elections on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, needs to win 425 of the 479 delegates up for grabs in order to officially clinch the nomination. There are a number of key down-ballot races throughout the country as well, including a primary in Iowa that could determine the fate of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Iowa Rep. Steve King defeated in GOP primary

Rep. Steve King. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

State Sen. Randy Feenstra defeated incumbent Rep. Steve King in Tuesday's Republican primary for Iowa's 4th congressional district, according to the Cook Political Report.

Why it matters: King's history of racist remarks has made him one of the most controversial politicians in the country and a pariah within the Republican Party.

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day — prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Protesters were still out en masse even as curfews set in in New York City and Washington, D.C. Large crowds kneeled at Arizona's state capitol nearly an hour before the statewide 8 p.m. curfew, and a peaceful march dispersed in Chicago ahead of the city's 9 p.m. curfew.