Amazon Auditions Astro Robot As Corporate Security Guard and Tests SDK
Amazon celebrated Astro’s first birthday by showcasing new features and uses for the smiling robot at its annual device showcase. Businesses are trialing Astro robots as autonomous security guards, fortified by Amazon Ring’s virtual security guard program. And the wheeled AI assistant has learned to identify cats and dogs in the home, and third-party developers have begun experimenting with an Astro software development kit (SDK) for experiences with Astro outside Amazon’s official commands.
Security was already one of the potential uses for Astro in people’s homes. Applying the same tools to businesses makes sense, especially when boosted by Ring’s existing platform. Astro employs Ring’s Virtual Security Guard software combined with its own autonomous movements to patrol for unauthorized visitors or investigate when an unmoving camera flags a potential issue. Should Astro note a real problem, it will alert Ring monitoring agents, who can then scare off trespassers or call the relevant authorities.
“Thousands of new businesses are turning to Ring for security devices and services each week, and last year Ring announced Virtual Security Guard*—a service that lets customers add live motion event monitoring to their security cameras for added peace of mind. We think this is an interesting use-case for Astro,” Amazon devices and services vice president Ken Washington explained. “Imagine you have Virtual Security Guard at your business and head home for the night, arming your Ring Alarm. If the Alarm goes off, Astro will autonomously and proactively go investigate what happened, while professional monitoring agents use Astro’s cameras to observe what’s happening in real time.”
The Astro robots still in people’s homes are getting some upgrades as well. One of the most frequent requests from the Day One program participants who currently own an Astro is for the robot to be able to identify cats and dogs. The robot will now note when the pet is spotted and record a video clip to send to the owner, who can then use Live View to try to talk to their animal. Astro owners are also now going to be able to teach the robot about their home in more detail, distinguishing different doors and windows so as to help Astro learn what counts as a potential problem that should be reported. For Astro experiences that Amazon hasn’t contemplated, the tech giant has created an SDK for third-party developers. The SDK is undergoing testing and improvements at three U.S. institutes of higher education.
Astro wasn’t Ring’s only hardware news. The company debuted new versions of the Spotlight Cam Plus and Spotlight Cam Pro. Both cameras are incorporating Ring’s new three-dimensional motion detection system and customizable Bird’s Eye View alert setup. The solar-powered Pro costs $250, while the battery and plug-in versions are priced $20 cheaper. There’s also a wired version on the way for an undecided price. The Plus model starts at $200 and is up for pre-orders now.
Still, the Astro news stood out among the Ring rollouts. The appeal of integrating Ring software with Astro comes down to economics as much as anything. Effective robotic security is not limited to militaries or deep-pocketed corporations. And the fact that Ring is owned by Amazon helps smooth the technical and security issues of augmenting Astro with Ring’s capabilities. It isn’t enormously different from embedding Ring on an Echo Show in some ways.
“Why are we integrating Virtual Security Guard with a robot? Well, it’s pretty simple — for some businesses, having on-site patrol is essential, but it’s also expensive,” Ring commercial solutions general manager Andrew Vloyanetes explained in a blog post. “We envision a world where robots can deliver an innovative, cost-effective on-site security solution, which could complement — or even replace — the need for on-site guard patrol during off-hours.”