Amazon is still working on a mobile home robot, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. It’s also planning to add a high-end Echo to its lineup of Alexa devices.
We first heard about Amazon’s plans to build a wheeled home robot in April last year. The project is reportedly codenamed “Vesta” (after the Roman goddess of the hearth), and rumors suggest it’s a sort of “mobile Alexa” that’s able to follow users around their homes.
Today’s report doesn’t add significantly to this picture, but it seems Amazon is still keen to build the mobile device. It was apparently slated to launch this year but wasn’t ready for mass-production. Engineers have reportedly been pulled from other projects to work on Vesta, and Gurman reports that prototypes are “waist-high and navigate with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras.” They can also be summoned using voice commands.
This (admittedly vague) description is actually pretty close to some existing products. A startup named Temi sells a “personal robot” with similar functionality, for example. Temi the robot is waist-high, has a built-in screen for displaying information, and can be controlled using Alexa. With a starting price of $1,999, though, it’s not really targeted at consumers, but more at companies that want to use the bot as a guide in their shops and offices.
Along with its mystery robot, Amazon is also reportedly working on a high-end Echo device that’s due to be released next year. Bloomberg says the cylindrical speaker is wider than existing Echo products in order to fit in extra speaker components, and it could launch alongside a high-fidelity version of Amazon’s music streaming service.
As is always the case with such reports, these products might never actually see the light of day. A mobile home robot is a particularly difficult sell. Over the past year, a number of companies offering home robots have collapsed, including Anki, the makers of the cute and caterpillar-tracked Vector bot, and Jibo Inc, the company behind the social bot Jibo.