1 big thing: The home robot race
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:
- "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, by Axios future editor Steve LeVine:
- 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.
The bottom line: Amazon is catching up, 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 behind the curve.
- P.S. Globally speaking, Amazon is arguably behind in home speakers too. Alibaba's latest home robot, called AliGenie 2.0, can scan a book and read it to your child, though for now only in Mandarin.
Go deeper: The anti-robot uprising is coming
2. What you missed
- French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Washington for his state visit. Running post with pics here.
- 78% of Americans believe that teachers aren't being paid enough, and 50% of them say they'd be willing to pay more taxes in order to give teachers a raise, according to polling from the A.P.
- Toronto van attack: At least eight pedestrians were struck by a vehicle today in Canada's biggest city. The driver is in custody.
- Waffle House shooting suspect in custody: Nashville police said today that they've apprehended Travis Reinking. More.
- New global gambling titan: The Canadian owner of PokerStars has agreed to acquire Sky Betting & Gaming for US $4.7 billion in cash and stock. It creates the world's largest publicly-listed online gambling company. Go deeper.
3. 1 fun thing
This summer's blockbuster schedule, via the AP:
- May: “Deadpool 2” (May 18); “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (May 25)"
- June: "Ocean's 8" (June 8); “The Incredibles 2” (June 15); “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” on June 22; “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (June 29); “The Hustle” (June 29)
- July: “The First Purge” (July 4); “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (July 6); “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (July 13); “The Equalizer 2" (July 20); “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!” (July 20); and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (July 27)
- August: “The Spy Who Dumped Me” (Aug. 3); “Mile 22” (Aug. 3); “BlacKkKlansman” (Aug. 10); “The Meg” (Aug. 10)