Amazon launches the Astro home robot

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“There are some really nice gadgets,” said Ben Whishaw, aka Q, on the red carpet for the world premiere of No time to die at the Royal Albert Hall in London this evening.

He had obviously still sworn to keep the surprises of the 25th Bond film and the last of Daniel Craig in the role a secret. At the same time, however, the secrets of Amazon’s latest products (see Tech Tools below) were being unveiled at its annual device event in the United States.

Chief among them was Astro, a robot capable of finding its way around your house using sophisticated AI and mastering something known in robotics as Slam – Simultaneous Locating and Mapping.

The robot is arguably Amazon’s boldest new hardware product since the release of the original Amazon Echo voice assistant in 2014, Dave Lee said in San Francisco.

It can be sent to specific places in the house and a periscope camera rises from the top of the device and can shoot up to eye level. It can track users when they make video calls. A touchscreen on Astro’s front displays two large cartoon eyes to make it more accessible, its engineers said in a promotional video. It was touted as a way to check on pets or elderly relatives.

Amazon said it will cost $ 999 and ship to a limited number of customers later this year, having been in development for the past four years.

It’s tempting to think of Astro as a Bond gadget in some way – one that’s unlikely to appear as a mass market product for many years, if at all.

But Amazon chief appliance officer Dave Limp said, “In five to 10 years, we believe every home will have at least one robot that will become an essential part of your daily life.” And the engineers who developed it clearly felt they had made inroads into robotics.

“This is our first robot, not our last robot,” said Gregg Zehr, president of the R&D team at Amazon Lab126.

The Internet of (five) things

1. AutoStore has in-store IPO
In other robot news, SoftBank-backed warehouse robotics group AutoStore is forecasting a stock exchange listing next month in Oslo that could value the company at nearly $ 12 billion. AutoStore achieved $ 182 million in revenue last year, but is aiming for $ 300 million in 2021 and over $ 500 million next year, as demand from grocery retailers and vendors line increases sharply.

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#techFT brings you news, commentary and analysis on the big companies, technologies and issues shaping this fastest moving industry by specialists around the world. Click here to receive #techFT in your inbox.

2. The new Vista from Blue Prism
UK process automation technology firm Blue Prism has agreed to a £ 1.1bn takeover by private equity group Vista Equity Partners. Vista intends to integrate Blue Prism with Tibco, the Silicon Valley-based data analytics company it privatized for $ 4.3 billion in 2014.

3. British ambitions as a “scientific superpower”
On Monday we had the UK’s first national space strategy, as Boris Johnson promised to build ‘Galactic Britain’. Today, our science editor Clive Cookson takes a look at the government’s focus on technology leadership, following an innovation strategy, released in July, which provided a snapshot of ministers’ focus on the industries of the future. The UK currently lags the G7 in R&D spending, but public investment is expected to rise from £ 14.9bn this year to £ 22bn in 2024-25.

A bar graph comparing the percentage of GDP spent on R&D by G7 countries.  The United Kingdom ranks 5th ahead of Italy and Canada.

4. Ford’s record investment in electric trucks
Ford and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation have pledged $ 11 billion to build three factories in Kentucky and Tennessee to produce battery-powered versions of the popular F-Series pickup trucks. is the largest Ford has made in manufacturing facilities in its 118-year history.

5. Google attacked Oz for advertising dominance
Australia’s competition regulator has called for laws to reduce Google’s dominance in the online advertising market, in the country’s latest volley against Big Tech following groundbreaking media reforms this year. A report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimated that more than 90% of the A $ 2.8 billion (US $ 2 billion) of open display advertising involved at least one Google service in 2020.

Tech Tools – Amazon’s New Devices

Amazon today announced a slew of new services and devices during its annual showcase. As part of its Ring system updates, Amazon announced that it will launch a subscription service that would allow a remote worker to access a customer’s live feed from their home to assess any danger, such as an intruder, reports Dave Lee. The $ 99 per month ”virtual security guard “ will be launched in partnership with security company Rapid Response.

Amazon glow is a small video chat device aimed at children, and a wall-mounted version of its Echo device, the Show 15, changes its display according to the recognition of the person looking at it. Other announcements included a partnership with Disney that will see Alexa installed in hotel rooms at the entertainment giant’s resorts, where “Hey Disney” will become a command used to ask questions about the parks or to interact with the characters.

And the company’s range of fitness bracelets – Halo – will now include a Vue device with a small AMOLED display, as well as subscription services for workouts and nutritional counseling.

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