Amazon’s next major consumer product could be far more ambitious than Echo speakers and Fire tablets, according to a new Bloomberg report: The company is said to be working on a domestic robot codenamed “Vesta” after the Roman goddess of family, hearth, and home. Vesta is said to be several years into development, with a release targeted for sometime next year.
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.
While most consumer robots have flopped due to prohibitive pricing and modest functionality, there have been task-specific exceptions, such as the successful Roomba line of vacuum cleaners. However, as Bloomberg points out, advances in computer vision and AI may enable Amazon’s device to turn the corner by adding more advanced functionality and autonomy, while the company’s typically aggressive pricing strategy could make Vesta — unlike, say, Sony’s robot dog Aibo — appealing to budget-conscious consumers.
Also noteworthy: Amazon already has a track record of successfully deploying robots in industrial applications, thanks to its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems. The report says Amazon is looking to test Vesta in employees’ homes by the end of this year and release them for consumers as early as next year.