Over 800 People Are Working on Amazon’s Alexa Robot: Report
Amazon has tasked more than 800 people to work on its long-rumored Alexa-enabled robot named Vesta, according to a report from Business Insider. The team size is continuing to grow, making Vesta one of the biggest projects ever at Amazon’s Lab126, where the company develops consumer devices like Alexa and the Echo line of smart speakers.
Amazon has been working on Vesta for around four years, with shifting stories regarding design, scheduling, and the goal of the project arriving with every new anonymous report. The more consistent details suggest Vesta will be a compact body of sensors such as cameras and microphones, communicating with its owners via speakers and screens as it rolls around a home on wheels. Voice commands to Alexa would direct the robot’s navigation
The purpose of the robot is still uncertain, but it could be pitched as a mobile meeting platform in the home. Instead of sitting in front of a computer for a video call, the user could walk around their home. That feature sounds very much like the new Amazon Echo 10 smart display, which can rotate its base to keep the screen and camera centered on the user during video calls or so they can see the screen when moving around a room. Vesta may also incorporate modular sensors and tools, the report states, using them to become a more mobile smart home hub capable of comparing air quality or humidity in different rooms and providing a kind of drawer to carry objects around the home. The report suggested it may look like the Echo smart speaker taped to a Roomba vacuum like the one now-former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted to Instagram a couple of years ago.
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The design is still not settled, however. Nor are there are any firm plans for a release date or price, though it has been suggested Vesta will be one of Amazon’s more expensive products. The amount of time and resources poured into Vesta without a product on the market is reportedly making people at Amazon nervous. The concern is that Vesta won’t be a new Echo or Alexa but will be remembered like Amazon’s Fire Phone, the company’s attempt to break into the smartphone space in 2014. The Fire Phone failed spectacularly almost immediately upon its release, leading to a $170 million write-off for Amazon. But with the supposed backing of Bezos and Lab126 president Gregg Zehr running the project, it’s been safe from cancellation so far. Perhaps Vesta will get a trial run but not be put into full production unless enough people are willing to buy it through Amazon’s new Build It program.
The crucal question is if Amazon’s robot can become as integral a part of the home as Vesta, the Roman goddess of hearth and home, who had a shrine in every single Roman household.