Amazon’s scuffed Astro robot is not the futuristic robot I was promised

Source: Amazon

Amazon is coming out with its very own assistant robot, and by assistant robot I mean a tiny Roomba with a screen on it. Based on my first impression after Amazon’s reveal of this thing, I am gonna take a hard pass on Amazon’s highly overpriced, scuffed violation of my privacy rights. Not because its a spy in my home, which it is, but because its usefulness is dubious at best…

Amazon’s scuffed Astro robot is probably going to be bad at everything

Let's talk about what this thing does.

According to Amazon, the Astro is going to help you by:

  • Following you during video chats using its periscope camera that extends to about waist level, for all those Aaron Sorkin style walk and talk video chats everyone is always doing these days
  • Playing music and videos while you walk around, like DJ Roomba from Parks and Recreation
  • Patroling your house for security threats! Well, it can patrol one floor of your house, and only if you have no floor dividers, which are like tiny speed bumps for it and a true bane of security robots from the future.
  • By following strangers that come into your house! And my question is, what weird facial scanning technology goes into the Astro harassing my guests?
  • Checking in on your children and elderly relatives from a distance, so long as they are on that one floor, and assuming this thing doesn't throw itself down some stairs first
  • Carrying small objects or water bottles to people. Neat!
  • Listen to you and record everything happening in your house, with or without your consent, so that Amazon can sell your data and sell more stuff to you

So to summarize, this robot is bad at everything that it does, making it a silly, pointless version of the humanoid robots in movies. It’s like a Roomba, but without any actual use. If this is the future of robots, I don’t want it!

Oh and I forgot to mention, this thing costs over $1,000!

So you are paying $1000 for an Amazon Alexa on wheels with very little value proposition and high-risk of being used to spy on you. For $1000, you could buy a whole-ass Roomba and strap an Alexa to the top and make your own DJ Roomba. At least that would clean floors now and won’t throw itself down the stairs. If really want Amazon spying on you and your family, that seems like the much better option, you get a vacuum out of the deal now.

I thought our dark, corporate overlord future would have cooler tech

Perhaps I am being too harsh on this thing. After all, it is kind of cool that you can remote control it to check on things remotely, and it does have a kind of cool periscope camera that sets it apart from just being a tiny rolling screen.

But lets be honest. This is a super lame product that no one asked for! All the examples Amazon came up with to describe its uses made it feel like maybe no one needs this rolling wiretap. Their sale pitch was not convincing, at all.

I mean, based on an article from the Verge, it seems like Astros' own developers aren’t sure what the purpose of this terrible piece of technology is. They even reportedly said that this thing will “throw itself” downstairs given the opportunity, though Amazon has said these claims were outdated.

Look, I have long accepted that the corporations don’t give a single fuck about our privacy (or freedom, or life, or general welfare), and that they will do anything to get a device into your home that gives them more access to information about you so they can sell to and control you. The surveillance society is nothing new, but they used to at least make it look cool when they violated your civil rights!-

If you want me to voluntarily give up my privacy, the product is gonna have to really slap. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do it, we all will succumb to the all-knowing panopticon in the end, but not for the Astro, or any other lame, overpriced, fake futuristic robot. Real robots or I quit!

Amazon’s Astro really makes me question the competence of our technological overlords. Do they even have a vision for the dark future dystopia they are trying to build. Or are they just winging it?

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Aaron J. Alford

Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication They/He