Ten years ago, Amazon introduced the Kindle and established the appeal of reading on a digital device. Four years ago, Jeff Bezos and company rolled out the Echo, prompting millions of people to start talking to a computer.
Now Amazon.com Inc. is working on another big bet: robots for the home.
The retail and cloud computing giant has embarked on an ambitious, top-secret plan to build a domestic robot, according to people familiar with the plans. Codenamed “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, the project is overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division based in Sunnyvale, California. Lab126 is responsible for Amazon devices such as the Echo speakers, Fire TV set-top-boxes, Fire tablets and the ill-fated Fire Phone.
It’s not completely clear what the robot would do, but the project title Vesta gives some clues, because it’s named after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family.
People working on the project say that the Vesta robot could serve as a ‘mobile Alexa’ that follows consumers around to parts of their home where they don’t have an Alexa-enabled device, Bloomberg noted.
Amazon is expected to test the Vesta robot among employees by the end of 2018, but consumers could get their hands on the device as soon as 2019.
According to the report, while Vesta’s exact purpose is not yet fully known, signs point to it acting as a mobile AI assistant, providing aid by accompanying users to places in their homes that don’t have Alexa devices. Vesta prototypes can apparently navigate through homes using autonomous car technologies such as cameras and computer vision, though the robots’ sizes and locomotion systems are not specified. Amazon’s Lab126 consumer hardware R&D division has hired robotics industry mechanical engineers to aid in the project and is still hiring sensor engineers and robotics software engineers.