Amazon Bets Big on Robots

Technology

After rolling out the Kindle and introducing the world to digital books, and establishing voice assistance with the Echo, Amazon is poised to bring about the next big thing in personal computing: home robots.

The online mega-site and tech company is undertaking a plan to build domestic robots. The exact tasks such a machine would perform aren’t yet clear but speculation is that the robot would be similar to a mobile Echo device, following people around to parts of their homes where the signal for the Echo service, Alexa, isn’t available.

The project is codenamed “Vesta” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, according to people familiar with it, and is being led by Gregg Zehr, head of Amazon’s Lab126 R&D division. Lab126 has been responsible for giving us Echo speakers and Fire TV, Amazon.com’s set-top video box.

Amazon has long been active in the area of robotics, most notably creating robots to move goods around Amazon’s massive warehouses and distribution facilities. Amazon Robotics, the company subsidiary responsible for the work originated as Kiva Systems, a company Amazon bought out in 2012 for $775 million, and is based in Massachusetts and Germany.

Lab126 currently lists dozens of jobs that suggest extensive investment on the part of the company into robotics, such as “Software Engineer, Robotics” and “Principle Sensors Engineer.” The company reportedly hopes to begin testing robots in employees’ homes by the end of this year and making machines available to the public as early as next year.

The company would not comment on “rumors and speculation,” according to a spokesperson.

Photo by Robert Scoble via Flickr

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