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Amazon debuts Astro in-home robot, new Alexa, and Ring products during virtual event

·Technology Editor
·7 min read
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Amazon (AMZN) on Tuesday held a virtual version of its annual hardware and services event, rolling out a host of new products ranging from Alexa-powered Echo devices to security products from the company’s Ring line.

Amazon senior vice president of services and devices, David Limp, kicked off the event by laying out the company’s plans for its use of ambient intelligence, or AI-powered devices that can understand what you want, when. Powering that experience is the company’s new AZ2 processor.

The company also says that it’s focusing on privacy, with the announcement that users will now be able to have their AZ1 and AZ2-equipped devices process voice requests on the system, so that no one outside of your home will be able to know what you say to your smart gadgets.

Amazon's Astro in-home robot will launch this year for $999. (Image: Amazon)
Amazon's Astro in-home robot will launch this year for $999. (Image: Amazon)

Amazon’s Astro Robot

The biggest announcement out of the show was Amazon’s new Astro. A pint-size robot that can automatically roll around your home, Astro has built-in sensors to help it navigate your home, as well as a periscope camera that pops up and allows you to do things like video chat with family and friends, or use it as a security bot. The camera can also rise out of its body, to see things like countertops and check the oven to ensure it’s turned off.

When using Astro as a remote video platform, its built-in display will serve as a monitor, and the robot will follow you around your home to ensure you can keep the conversation going if you have to do things like change the laundry. Naturally, Astro will also include all of the same features as Alexa, including the ability to listen to music, check your schedule, and more.

Astro can also be used to monitor your home as a security robot. (Image: Amazon)
Astro can also be used to monitor your home as a security robot. (Image: Amazon)

To ensure Astro doesn’t crash into your couch and sit there for hours, Amazon has outfitted the robot with home mapping technology to allow it to figure out where all of your furniture is.

Astro will be part of Amazon’s Day One program, so you’ll need to sign up to get the opportunity to buy the robot. And it’s not cheap either at $999. What’s more, Amazon says Astro is just its first of many robots it has planned for the future, meaning there are certain to be more advanced versions in the future.

Echo and Alexa

In addition to Astro, Amazon debuted a number of new Echo and Alexa items including its new Smart Thermostat. A connected Energy Star-certified thermostat that works with Alexa, the Smart Thermostat is a result of a partnership with Honeywell Homes (HON), which should allow the thermostat to work with most existing HVAC systems.

Available for just $59, the Smart Thermostat adjusts the temperature if you’re home or away, and can be set remotely based on your preferences. Amazon’s Smart Thermostat easily undercuts the price of Google’s Nest Thermostat, which starts at $129, though it’s not nearly as appealing from a design perspective.

The company also unveiled its new Echo Show 15. Available later this year for $249, the Echo Show 15 is designed to be a new digital centerpiece of your home. Sporting a 15.6-inch display, the Show 15 can be wall mounted or set up on a stand in portrait or landscape. A jumbo size version of the Echo Show, the Echo Show 15 is a kind of family organizer and doubles as a kitchen TV. It can display your calendar, photo collages, shopping lists, to-do lists, the weather, and more.

The Echo Show 15 can be mounted to a wall or used via a stand as a kind of interactive family hub. (Image: Amazon)
The Echo Show 15 can be mounted to a wall or used via a stand as a kind of interactive family hub. (Image: Amazon)

Any family member can add events to the calendar, and leave sticky notes via Alexa voice support. There’s also a widget that can provide you with a look at all of your connected devices and allows you to control them directly from the Show 15. What’s more, the display can also be used to stream your feed from your Ring video doorbell.

Amazon says Sling TV will be coming to all Echo Show devices, including the Show 15, later in the year. And if you want it to be less intrusive, you can turn the Show 15 into a large digital photo frame.

In a similar vein, Amazon announced its new $249 Amazon Glow, a collaborative and interactive device designed to help families stay in touch with younger kids. Using a 19-inch touch sensitive area, and an 8-inch display, users are able to play games with children from their tablet, and have it appear on the projected area. 

The idea is to let family members who live far away to play with their kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews. The company says that they’ve partnered with Disney, Mattel, Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon to create things like animated storybooks, and puzzles.

The Amazon Glow is meant to provide relatives who live far from their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews with a means to chat and play with them remotely. (Image: Amazon)
The Amazon Glow is meant to provide relatives who live far from their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews with a means to chat and play with them remotely. (Image: Amazon)

Parental controls allow kids to only call people that parents have enabled access to, and there’s a physical camera shutter that lets you cut off the camera entirely.

On the fitness front, Amazon has debuted a new version of its Halo fitness band. Called the Halo View, the tracker sports a display similar to Fitbit’s own bands. Starting at $79, the band includes a subscription to Amazon’s Halo service, which offers capabilities including sleep tracking, body composition measuring, and voice tone monitoring.

The company says it will also roll out its own Halo Fitness app complete with workouts and Halo Nutrition, which is meant to help users develop healthier eating habits. Amazon, however, has some stiff competition in the likes of Fitbit and Apple, both of which have their own fitness offerings and apps.

Ring and security

Amazon’s Ring also received updates, with the company announcing more about its Ring Always Home Cam, an autonomous camera that flies around your home, and can monitor for sounds and other security alerts from your other ring security devices. You can also set the drone to monitor specific parts of your house.

When you’re not using the Home Cam, it rests in a charging dock, which doubles as a camera cover. Amazon says you can sign up to purchase the Home Cam now, and if you’re approved, it will cost $249.

Ring's in-home drone will be available for $249. (Image: Amazon)
Ring's in-home drone will be available for $249. (Image: Amazon)

In addition to the drone, Amazon announced its new Ring Alarm Pro, a professionally monitored security system with built-in Wifi 6 router that starts at $249. There’s also a new Ring Virtual Security Guard, which lets select third-party monitoring services check in on cameras of your choosing to ensure your home is safe when you’re asleep or away from your smartphone.

Amazon will be working with Rapid Response as its first monitoring service and adding options in the future. Early access customers will get free monitoring for a limited time. After that, pricing will be $99 per month per monitored location.

Amazon’s hardware products are part of its strategy to not only keep existing customers hooked on its Prime subscription service, but to draw in new customers, as well. And with gadgets like Astro and the Ring Always Home Cam, it should be able to continue doing that with ease.

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