By Morgan T. McCulley
Amazon is known for being the leader in new trends such as with the Kindle and Echo. Now they are reportedly making robots for households. Named “Vesta”, the Roman goddess of the hearth, this top-secret plan is to build a domestic robot for homes everywhere.
The project started a few years ago and is sharply increased hiring this year. The company is hoping to seed robots in employees’ homes by late 2018 and to consumers by early 2019, though this timeline may change over time due to development issues. When asked, a spokesperson for Amazon said they don’t comment on “rumors and speculation.”
It’s overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon’s Lab126 in Sunnyvale, California. They focus on hard work research and development while responsible for innovations such as the Echo speakers and Fire tablets. They have many job opening here for the project including “software engineer” and “principal sensors engineer.” They are also looking for specialized mechanical engineers from the robotics industry. Others on the project include Max Paley, former Apple executive, who manages work on computer vision. They are not the same as Amazon Robotics, a company subsidiary based in Germany and Massachusetts. This company was Kiva Systems before Amazon bought it in 2012 for $775 million and they had made the robots for Amazon warehouses.
It’s very unclear what the purpose of these robots are. There is speculation that they will be like mobile Alexa to take into areas where consumers might not have an Echo. So far, the prototypes can move throughout rooms and have advanced cameras with computer vision software. There are have been many promises of robots who could provide companionship and do chores before. One failed attempt was Topo Robot by Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari. It did little of anything and never got sold well. More attempts have occurred in Japan, China, and the U.S. but never were they successful. More recent advances make this easier for Amazon to bring it’s robot to the market.
Companies such as Sony Corp. and LG Electronics Inc. are now trying to jump on the robot train too. LG had a robot named Cloi but failed multiple times during a demonstration. Sony had a new robotic dog called Aibo that doesn’t much but bark and play soccer. It costs $1,800 which is about the same for a real pup from a breeder. However, according to Research and Markets, the robot market will be about $15 billion worth by 2023 and up by $5.4 billion from this year. Trying to sell to home is still tricky as only the Roomba and other cleaning robots are the only successful attempts in selling to homes. Of course, Echo has been a success so this works in Amazon’s favor. It’s understandable that other companies will want to try this too with their own robots but so far, Amazon seems to be the only one company that can.