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Amazon’s hands-free assistant Alexa has turned-up in a dizzying number of places – from Amazon Echo smart speakers to microwaves, cars, smartphones and TVs. The chatty AI assistant has a lot of requests to field each day. But the latest Alexa-powered gadget from Amazon might just be the most ambitious (and wackiest) yet. According to sources, the Seattle-based retailer is in the “late-prototype stage” of a home robot, codenamed Vesta.
Unlike your Amazon Echo, which sits on the shelf and handles takeaway orders, reminds you about upcoming appointments, calls friends, plays song requests, sets timers, and more, this all-new gadget will follow you around the home to help out. According to The Verge, Amazon has now assigned more than 800 employees to the so-called Vesta project.
Whispers from inside the secretive team suggest the robot will be about the size of “two small cats” or, presumably, one fat cat. Approximately 10- to 13-inches across, it will move around the home independently on wheels. Voice assistant Alexa will be available at all times as it moves around the home. As it stands, Amazon sells some of its Echo smart speakers in multi-packs – it’s currently offering £25 off for anyone who buys three or more Echo Dot speakers – so that users can place them around the home.
With a robot-like Alexa, this wouldn’t be necessary as the AI assistant would roam around the house with a pet and always be within earshot – ready for your next voice command.
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Amazon is said to be adding a screen, a far-field microphone array, several cameras, and sensors. These features would allow the robot to move independently around the home, however, it’s also possible the cameras will be handy for video calls while you’re going about your chores too. The cat-sized gadget is also said to include the ability to measure environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and air quality.
As Alexa can already interface with a huge number of smart home gadgets, including lighting, thermostats, and more. The ability to detect the temperature and humidity in any given room that it enters would presumably allow the forthcoming robot to automatically make adjusts as it roams your home.
Finally, sources claim the ‘bot has a “small compartment” for carrying objects as part of its design.
Some employees involved in the project have purportedly voice concerns about whether there is enough demand for the smart home robot. If the ‘bot does make it to market, it’s rumoured to appear first as an “invite-only” product to help Amazon gauge the amount of demand.
Earlier this year, the US retail firm launched the all-new Echo Show 10, which showcases some of the technologies that could ultimately power the cat-like smart ‘bot. Show 10 has a touchscreen display that pivots to follow you around the room – so that you’re always in-frame when making a video call with friends and can see the information shown on the screen when Alexa is answering one of your questions.
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