What the Tech? Can Astro the Robot Give You Home Security?
By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter
Two years after announcing its household robot, Amazon has finally begun shipping its Astro robot. You’ll still need to request an invitation to purchase the two-wheeled robot for $1599.
Along with doing some very basic things around the house such as delivering something to someone else in another room, or playing games with the kids, Amazon has pushed the idea of Astro as a home security device to the front of its marketing.
The idea of a robot patrolling the house while you’re away is intriguing.
Here’s how it works with Astro:
When you first take Astro out of the box it wants to look around the house for awhile. I didn’t give it any information at this point, I just let it roll throughout the house taking its notes. Using machine learning and a camera, Astro knew the layout of my home in about a half-hour, making note of stairs, furniture, and doorways.
I then gave it a bit more information on each location, “Astro, this is the living room,” and so forth. I asked Astro to follow me throughout the house and identified each room with a name.
I stepped out of the way with Astro near the front door and said “Astro, this is the front door.”
Astro stood there for a moment and took photos of the door before asking me if it had it correct. So now the robot knew my house like the back of its hand, or whatever a robot has instead of a hand.
It also needs to be able to identify the people who live there. Each person in the home creates a profile and lets Astro take a photo of them. It also instructs them to say some basic demands and instructions to learn each person’s voice.
With all of that information in its memory, Astro is ready to patrol the house as a security guard.
“Astro, I’m leaving” gives the robot a command to protect the house. Much like setting a traditional home alarm system, Astro gives you 60 seconds to leave the house before starting its patrol.
While I’m gone, Astro rolled through the house looking and listening for anything unusual. If it detected something it will send a notification to the owner’s smartphone that could show a live video feed of what it found.
I tested this a couple of times, putting it on patrol while I was still in the house. I slammed the door, played the sound of breaking glass on a Bluetooth speaker, and yelled in another room of the house.
When Astro heard me make a loud sound in the kitchen it responded by rolling into the kitchen and raising its periscope camera to take a closer look.
It did respond quickly when it detected movement. While on patrol Astro detected a face it was not familiar with. A friend had stopped by while I was testing this and she sat in the dining room to talk. On its patrol, Astro’s eyes found my friend’s face and sent an immediate notification to my phone that it detected an “unrecognized person”. It rolled right to her and stared while the camera sent back the feed.
Yeah, she was pretty creeped out.
I asked another friend to slam the door while Astro was in away mode. He walked through the door and slammed both the storm door and the main door. I can’t say for sure whether Astro detected the sound or not as it had begun its patrol.
However, it did spot my friend’s ‘unrecognized face’ and began following him through the house. It was fast and Astro was practically chasing my friend from room to room while sending a notification and video feed to my phone.
How did it do? Not as good as a human security guard of course and I found it was fairly easy to hide behind a piece of furniture when Astro came to take a look.
Astro works with Ring security cameras and Echo devices which I didn’t get to try before having to send it back to Amazon. I’m sure it will become smarter over time and like with its Echo devices, Amazon will keep upgrading and updating its skills and abilities.