Amazon has made great strides in artificial intelligence and computer vision technology over the last couple of years since the launch of the first Alexa-powered Echo smart speaker and Amazon Go cashier-less stores. The next step for the online retail and cloud giant seems to be combining these technologies as part of an effort to build a robotics system for domestic use.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, Amazon is planning to build its first home robot codenamed "Vesta," named after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family. Per the report, Vesta is being developed by Lab126, Amazon's hardware research and development center. This same division - overseen by Gregg Zehr - built the Echo speakers, Fire TV, Fire tablets, and the Fire Phone. Furthermore, former Apple executive Max Paley is leading the computer vision part of the work, while Amazon is looking for mechanical engineers for the robotic component.
There are no clear descriptions, however, about what specific functions the home robot will serve or how it will look. It is understood though that the Vesta robot may work like a sort of "mobile Alexa", which will supposedly escort homeowners to areas of their house where they can't practically speak to an Echo device.
Amazon will reportedly incorporate advanced cameras and computer vision software into the robot's prototypes so that it is able to navigate through the house with no human intervention. The Seattle-based company is expected to begin seeding the robots in employees’ homes later this year, though consumers might not be able to test the product until early 2019.
It's worth pointing out that Vesta will be different from the robots built by Amazon's Robotics subsidiary in Massachusetts and Germany. Those robots are developed to carry goods around Amazon warehouses, while the home robots will have some sort of virtual assistant function similar to LG's Cloi, which was unveiled at this year's CES.
It is possible Amazon might have a change of heart along the way and decide to drop the project entirely. Several robots of this kind were unveiled in recent years, including Asus' Zenbo from two years ago. The home robot has a child-like voice and a touchscreen, designed to offer reminders, answer queries, and provide voice controls for media and smart home appliances. There's Temi as well, a wheeled robot with a tablet-like face for watching TV, video-calling friends and family or playing music.