As a smart home reviewer of a certain age, all I’ve ever wanted for my home is a Rosie the Robot. The progenitorsThe mechanical housekeeper was the example I held to Amazon’s Astro when I tested the company’s first home robot and, of course, it failed. Not just because she had no arms, but because she really couldn’t do anything.
Now, second internal documents from Amazon seen by Insiders, the company thinks it has found the keys to unlocking Astro’s potential. Burnham is a secret new AI robot project Amazon is developing that adds a layer of “intelligence and a conversational speaking interface” to a smart home robot, according to the documents. Insiders.
An enhanced Burnham-powered Astro could use large speech models and other advanced AI to become a household robot that understands the context of a busy family and responds appropriately. Second Insidersthe documents indicate that the technology “remembers what it saw and understood” and the robot can then “engage in a question-and-answer dialogue about what it saw” and use LLM-powered AI to act accordingly.
For example, the documents describe an Astro product that Burnham uses as being able to find a stove left on or a faucet left running and track its owner to alert them. He might check on someone who has fallen and call 911 if it’s an emergency. It could help find keys, check if a window has been left open overnight and monitor if children have friends after school, according to the documents. These are all things you can do to some extent with existing smart home technology, but they require more steps, devices and actions, as opposed to one: Astro.
Most interestingly, however, it appears that Amazon is exploring launching more complex businesses. One example given was a robot that sees broken glass on the floor, knows it poses a danger, and prioritizes sweeping it before anyone steps on it – essentially, locating problems and potentially fixing them.
This “contextual understanding,” as Amazon describes the technology in the filings, is its “latest and most advanced AI technology designed to make robots smarter, more useful, and more conversational.” So basically Rosie the Robot (but without the arms).
However, Burnham will not come to a robot near you anytime soon. Amazon acknowledges in documents that it still has a long way to go before Burnham can be put into a product. Plus, you still can’t buy the current not-so-smart Astro without an invite, his the price just went up to $1,600AND Insiders notes that Amazon has abandoned plans to release a cheaper version.
Even amid the rapid adoption of generative AI by tech companies like Amazon, a capable home robot like Rosie is still just a sci-fi character. Although Amazon’s statement in a paper, “Our robot has a strong body. What we need next is a brain,” makes me think twice about how much I really want an AI-powered, intelligent robot that you wander around my house.