For a company that started out as an online book store, Amazon has become one of the biggest players in the tech industry. Amazon Web Services powers much of the web. The company’s Echo line of devices effectively popularized use voice assistants around the home in a way that Apple’s Siri never did. And the company has popular lines of eReaders, tablets, and smart TV products.
So what’s next? Robots.
That’s according to a report from Bloomberg, which indicates that Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division is ramping up an effort to build robots that people could use in their homes.
Amazon hasn’t officially confirmed the report, and even if Bloomberg’s sources are correct, it doesn’t mean Amazon’s home robots will ever come to market. The company has a habit of announcing big ideas (think Amazon Prime Air) which take a long time to get off the ground. Others might be scrapped before they’re ever launched. And not everything Amazon does produce is a success (ie: Amazon Fire Phone).
That said, Bloomberg reports that Amazon hopes to begin sending robots home with employees for testing as soon as 2019, where they could perform various tasks around the house.
It’s unclear exactly how they’ll work, what kind of activities they’ll be able to perform, or how much they’ll cost. But it’s not hard to imagine an Amazon Robot as a sort of Alexa-on-wheels (or maybe legs) device that can follow you around the house. Computer vision could help keep the robot from walking into walls or falling down stairs. It could also help the machine recognize people and objects and interact with them in ways that may not be possible using today’s Echo devices.
Amazon isn’t a newcomer to the field of robotics. The company already uses robots in its warehouses to move products. Maybe a home robot could help clean the house, fold laundry, or perform other menial chores. Maybe it could play with your dog while you’re not home (or just freak it out). Maybe robot butlers are just around the corner.
Or maybe it’ll be little more than a mobile voice assistant with a camera, display, and a digital face, much like the Asus Zenbo and a handful of other “robots” we’ve seen unveiled over the past few years.