Amazon hardware chief says the Astro home robot started as a security device and ‘evolved to cover much more’

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  • Amazon on Tuesday unveiled a walking robot called Astro that can autonomously patrol your home, respond to commands and serve up reminders.
  • Amazon’s top hardware exec Dave Limp told Businesshala why the company decided to launch the robot after originally focusing on security.

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Amazon’s Dave Limp, who runs the e-retailer’s hardware division, said the company’s leap into home robots this week began with a focus on safety and then evolved into a product that can even deliver a drink or Can take video calls.

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“We wrote a document where we thought customers would particularly like the security aspects of the home robot,” Limp told Businesshala’s John Forte in an interview that aired Friday on “TechCheck.” “It has since evolved to cover much more surface area than that, but that was kind of the original idea.”

Amazon has built a range of hardware devices over the years, from its early Kindle e-readers to modern tablets, voice-activated smart speakers, and a smart TV. But its latest device, a robot called Astro powered by Alexa, may be its most ambitious yet.

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Amazon unveiled Astro at its annual hardware event on Tuesday. The company began experimenting with robots in its warehouses before eventually developing a consumer product. Limp said Amazon spent the last four years working on the device.

The Astro is loaded with sensors that allow it to navigate the entire house and surrounding objects with ease. It includes two Qualcomm chips that power features such as Visual ID, which enables it to identify one user from another. Astro can patrol your home autonomously, responding to commands and providing reminders.

While Amazon has generally targeted the thrifty with its low-cost Echo speakers and TV streaming sticks, the Astro starts at $1,000 for users who receive an invitation to early access and buy it at launch. Those will cost $1,500.

“We still find that some of our highest volume products are around $50,” Limp said. “That being said, some of these brands have been around for a while, and when they happen, customers ask us to add more features.”

Limp said recent upgrades in smart-home technology like sensors and processors allowed Amazon to consider launching an Alexa-powered robot.

“That kind of combination got us excited, well, we should start on this one,” he said.

Amazon still relies on e-commerce, cloud computing and now advertising for the bulk of its revenue, and that doesn’t break out device sales. The company generally sees it as tools for consumers to access Prime shipping or other services such as music and video streaming.

Watch: Amazon introduced Astro, Robot


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