Multiple reports have said that the workers who built the Amazon Astro robot, which was announced at the September Amazon Event, have condemned it harshly. The $999 robot, which will not be available for consumers until later this year, was announced at the Amazon Event on Tuesday. In the announcement, Amazon Astro was touted as an artificial intelligence-enabled agent that uses mapping technology to move around home spaces for surveillance, personnel assistance, and monitoring.
However, these developers have called the product hogwash. In a report published by VICE, developers chided the product for developmental flaws, calling it half-baked and potentially dangerous. Developers who worked on Astro reported that the versions of the robot they worked on didn’t work as expected. One developer called the Amazon Astro ‘fragile’ despite its thousand-dollar price tag. “Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity. The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,” a source who worked on the project said.
The source continued, “The device feels fragile for something with an absurd cost. The mast has broken on several devices, locking itself in the extended or retracted position, and there’s no way to ship it to Amazon when that happens.” According to the source, the Amazon Astro will most definitely haul itself down a flight of stairs. It is not known if this is due to poor object recognition or limited mobility use cases. The developer called it “absurdist” and “potentially dangerous for anyone who’d rely on it for accessibility purposes”.
While there have been privacy concerns, as the Amazon Astro is a surveillance robot that has an always-on camera and access to facial data, these reports bring another dimension to the problem with Amazon’s latest innovation. It could be said that the tech and streaming giants intentionally placed the robot on an invite-only rollout for now to test its real-world practicality. According to the Verge, the survey required to be filled to get an invite specifically queries users on the type of staircase their homes use, indicating that Amazon might be aware of the product’s integrity issues. The Amazon Event included announcements on a slew of other products, and the Astro may not have been a noticeable exclusion if the company had decided to hold back on its release until issues plaguing it are fixed.