One of my favorite movies as a kid was Smart House. The Disney Channel Original Movie was about an AI-equipped home that helps out a family, only to become sentient and wreak havoc as an overbearing mother. The film was a fun attempt at showing the dangers of letting AI control our lives — a reality that we’re very much now part of, thanks to companies like Amazon and Google.
Tech giants have been investing largely in developing artificial intelligence to assist us in various aspects of our lives. Amazon is arguably leading the pack with various Alexa-enabled speakers and home devices. The company has recently invested in home automation and security, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests that it may want to take things further by targeting the dreams of every sci-fi fan.
Sources familiar with the company’s plans indicate that Amazon is looking into developing domestic robots. The project, dubbed “Vesta,” is currently under way at Amazon’s hardware research facility Lab126. This is the same R&D that gave us Echo, Kindle, and Fire Phone devices. It’s very possible that this new project could very much see the light of day.
Little is known about Vesta outside of job postings. While the project has been in development for some years, the company has recently stepped up its hiring. There have been various openings spotted online for the positions of “Computer Vision and Deep Learning Research Scientist,” “Software Engineer, Robotics,” and “Principal Seniors Engineer.” More hints come in the form of the project codename; “Vesta” is the Greek goddess of hearth, home, and family.
Sources state that the initiative is already in its prototype stage, describing the robot as a “mobile Alexa.” The robot would be outfitted with technology akin to self-driving cars, allowing it to navigate and detect object via computer vision. Amazon may start field testing with employees as early as this year, depending on how development progresses. If all goes well, consumers may be able to pick up their own Alexa robot sometime in 2019.
Amazon isn’t the only company wanting to put robots in your home. Sony recently rebooted its cute, yet expensive Aibo robot dog, outfitting it with a number of improvements including sensors and AI. LG is even getting in on the action, having demonstrated its own CLOi bot, which unfortunately failed several times to respond to its human counterpart.
As AI continues to move forward, domestic robots seem like the next logical step. It’s only a matter of time before I can have my very own C-3PO and R2-D2!