As a smart home reviewer of a certain age, all I’ve ever wanted for my home is a Rosie robot. The JetsonsThe mechanical housekeeper was the example I held Amazon’s Astro to when I tested the company’s first home robot, and it failed miserably. Not just because it had no weapons, but because it couldn’t really do anything.
Now, according to internal Amazon documents it has seen Insider, the company believes it has found the keys to unlocking Astro’s potential. Burnham is a new secret AI robot that Amazon is developing, which the documents say adds a layer of “intelligence and a conversational conversational interface” to the smart home robot, according to reports. Insider.
Powered by Barnham, the upgraded Astro can use large language models and other advanced artificial intelligence to become a home robot that understands the context of a busy family and responds accordingly. Agreed InsiderThe documents show that the technology “remembers what it has seen and understood” and the robot can then “engage in a question-and-answer dialogue about what it has seen” and use artificial intelligence powered by LLMs to to act upon.
For example, the documents describe an Astro product that Burnham uses that can find a stove or faucet left on, and search for its owner to alert him. It can check on someone who has fallen and call 911 if it’s an emergency. It can help find your keys, check if a window was left open overnight and track if kids have friends over after school, according to the documents. These are things you can do to some extent with existing smart home technology, but they require multiple steps, devices, and actions, unlike one, Astro.
Most interestingly, however, Amazon seems to be exploring initiating more complex tasks. An example given was a robot that sees broken glass on the floor, knows it’s a hazard, and prioritizes cleaning it up before someone steps on it, essentially detecting problems and potentially solving them.
This “Contextual Understanding,” as Amazon describes the technology in the documentation, is its “latest and most advanced AI technology designed to make robots smarter, more helpful, and more conversational.” So basically Rosie the robot (but without arms).
However, Burnham won’t be coming to a robot near you anytime soon. Amazon acknowledges in the filing that it still has a long way to go before getting Burnham into products. You also still can’t buy the current, not-so-smart Astro without an invite, it just went up to $1,600, and Insider notes that Amazon has abandoned plans to release a cheaper version.
Even with the rapid adoption of generative artificial intelligence by tech companies like Amazon, a capable home robot like Rosie is still the stuff of science fiction. Although Amazon’s statement in one document: “Our robot has a strong body. What we need next is a brain,” makes me think twice about how much I really want a smart, AI-powered robot walking around my house.