By this time next year, you could have your very own robot to do stuff around your home, courtesy of Amazon.
Lab126, the company’s hardware research and development division, is quietly working on a domestic robot, according to a Bloomberg report. And it could be ready to roll (or, maybe, walk? who knows) into customers’ homes as soon as 2019.
Like any secret project worth its salt, this one has a codename — “Vesta” — and details are scant.
What we do know is that the project began several years ago, and that Amazon recently ramped up hiring for it. The company’s jobs page features openings for several robot-related positions for Lab126, such as “Senior Applied Robotics Scientist” and “Sr. Software Engineer, Robotics,” all posted since the beginning of the year.
As for what the bot will actually do, even sources familiar with Amazon’s plans aren’t 100 percent sure. They tell Bloomberg one possibility is for it to serve as a mobile Echo of sorts. The device could follow owners around the home like a dedicated pet, waiting for its master to throw it a bone in the form of a verbal command.
The same sources tell Bloomberg that prototypes of Amazon’s home robot make use of advanced cameras and computer vision software. That’s essentially the same technology that helps an autonomous car navigate roads could help Vesta traverse the home.
But we still have lots of questions. How could it handle homes with multiple floors? Will it have arms, or wheels? Will it fold my laundry for me? Would it still kind of be monitoring us at all times, like the extremely popular Echo is, now in more rooms of our houses?
Amazon isn’t ready to provide any answers. A spokesperson told Bloomberg the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation.”
Based on what we do know so far, it sounds like Amazon is essentially combining the mobility of a Roomba with the AI smarts of an Echo. That may not be the home robot of our sci-fi dreams (it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be the real-life version of the Jetsons’ chore-tackling robot Rosie), but it could be a start.