Amazon Home Automation: Upscale Products

July 16, 2019

amazon home automation

We recently looked at the Amazon home automation line and how it is continuing to expand. Check that out here!

Smart speakers are reaching a saturation point, so the global beast has already pivoted after facing stiff competition from Google and Sonos. The enduringly popular Echo Show now has a new 5-inch smart display perfect for bedroom use, which is soon to hit the shelves.

We’ll look today at how Amazon is also plotting to rival Google Home Max and the powerful Sonos One speakers with an upscale Echo.

Amazon-owned Ring also keeps on broadening its range, but there are exciting new developments as we edge ever closer to 2020, the year of the robot…

Will the Amazon Home Robot become a reality, or will it remain largely conceptual like LG’s CLOi range of helper robots?

Before we glimpse at these new products in the pipeline, where are they conjured up?

Amazon Lab126

While Jeff Bezos gets a great deal of credit, where do the nuts and bolts of Amazon home automation research and development take place?

Well, Amazon Lab126 is set an hour outside San Francisco, fittingly adjacent to a NASA testing facility. While Amazon might not be putting a man on the moon, they’re certainly intent on dominating all the tech inside your smart home. Amazon wants to put “Alexa everywhere,” and they’re doing a strong job. Even though Echo sales are wilting and facing stiff competition, these smart speakers are still slated to grab 63% of market share in 2019. This means Amazon home automation will be present in a majority of homes.

Lab126 is the nerve center of Alexa, but also a hotbed of testing for the swelling number of third-party devices not made by Amazon. To put the sheer volume of these devices into context, Amazon built out a customized test bot to help keep things running at full clip. Other companies are strong-arming in for a slice of the lucrative smart speaker pie that Amazon is diversifying.

Blake Kozak, a market analyst for IHS Markit, suggests that as devices begin working with almost everything, those with a specific digital assistant baked in could be vital in giving ecosystems the edge.

This is not something Bezos is unaware of. Indeed, back in 2017, he stated that Amazon had reached an important point where third-party companies and developers were “accelerating adoption of Alexa.” To help grease the wheels, Chris Hagler, director of engineering, was installed at Lab126 to give outside developers all the tools they need to build their own Echo devices. Hagler played a pivotal role in developing the original Echo.

So…

Lab126 is where the action takes place, but what about the new Echo?

All-New Echo In Development

Amazon has taken note that one of the most disappointing things for most consumers about smart speakers is…

The speaker.

It seems absurd in some ways that products marketed as audio devices so often fall flat on their faces when it comes to the soundscape delivered. With plenty of competition in the form of the exceptional Google Home Max and the mighty Alexa-enabled Sonos One, even audio specialist like Bose are muscling in on the smart speaker segment.

Reports about the upcoming Echo along with prototypes of the barrel-shaped device suggest it’s bulkier to accommodate uprated speaker componentry. Four tweeters will be shoehorned in to increase clarity

Also, as Amazon home automation continues to offer more services, the speaker could be a launchpad for a high-fidelity streaming service.

There’s not much more information to go on right now, but we thought we’d tip you off to the prospect of an Echo device that will bring your music collection fully to life.

Suggested release date is some time toward the end of 2020.

Alexa Home Robot

News of Amazon’s mooted home robot, codenamed Vesta, is hardly news at all. Bloomberg first reported it in April 2018.

Amazon is remarkably keen to launch this wheeled version of Echo to further make good on its promise of Alexa everywhere. Although intended to hit the market this year, the launch has been pushed back since the device was simply not ready for mass production. Precise reasons for this delay are still unknown.

Prototypes are reported to stand roughly waist high and you’ll be able to able to summon Vesta using voice commands and the imitable Alexa. With onboard cameras and sensors, the robot will, in essence, use the same tech as a self-driving car, but what will it do?

Alexa Home Robot Details

As with most Amazon home automation details, they are predictably a secret. It might be that core functionality is not yet established. In our opinion, if all this robot does is follow you around to bring Alexa into rooms where you don’t have a smart speaker, it will have strictly limited appeal.

Over the past year, a handful of robotics companies have folded. Unlike start-ups or struggling young bucks, Amazon clearly has deep enough pockets to throw whatever it wants at Vesta. Since engineers have reportedly been taken away from other projects to beaver away on the home robot, it would seem that Amazon certainly intends to follow through.

Perhaps the more salient question than what Vesta might do is this: what do consumers want a home robot to do?

Home Robots in 2019

It’s fairly clear that robots will soon start penetrating our homes en masse. We’ve moved far beyond sci-fi fantasies with many manufacturers already selling workable household robots. Let’s take a look at some home robots that are already on the market and get some insight on what to expect in terms of robots from the Amazon home automation lineup.

Temi, for example, is a personal robot that’s already for sale and comes with Alexa capability. In many ways, this seems like the kind of unit Vesta could be if Amazon doesn’t layer on the secret sauce and come up with a USP.

There’s also the CLOi line-up from LG. Again, these robots are not flooding homes right now since they’re far more tailored for use in airports or hospitality backdrops.

What, then, do we really want from household robots?

Where Robots Are Heading

Since home automation is all about making our lives easier, it goes unsaid that a robot capable of lending a hand with those mundane household chores would be genuinely useful. The problem is, tech just isn’t in place to make that a reality right now, however, companies are trying to market this to the contrary.

Sure, companies like Boston Dynamics are continuing to work voraciously on “Changing your idea of what a robot can do.” Other firms like Jibo have launched hub-like bots already.

The idea of domestic robots is certainly not new. We’ve been teased since as far back as 1983 when Atari founder Nolan Bushnell introduced the Top Robot. Still, though, technology has proved elusive.

In the absence of the ability to really get robots properly moving in terms of performing a range of chores, they’re seen instead as cleaning drones in the form of robotic vacuums. Out in the yard, they also have one job only: mowing the lawn.

So, if what we want right now is just not possible, what future use cases might we see robots in the home fulfilling?

Home Robots in The Near Future

People around the world are living longer. It’s no longer quite so common for multiple generations to live under the same roof and this leaves more elderly people fending for themselves. A report from the US Administration on Aging shows over 11 million seniors are currently living alone.

This is where companion robots could find a worthwhile base.

Joy For All, a brand launched by Hasbro, consists of tech-driven “pets” expressly designed to give seniors living alone some company without the headache of a real animal in the house.

Telenoid has been manufacturing humanoid robots with the intent of replicating human presence in android form.

Living alone can be trying for seniors, especially if they’re not too tech-savvy and unable to enjoy the benefits of video calling. Support robots will undoubtedly play a valuable role in keeping lonely people company.

Stepping things up from simply being present in the house, BLACK+DECKER’S Home Care Companion is more than just a friendly robotic face. Serving a range of medical functions from reminding to dispensing medication, this is another area where the technology is in place and just needs rolling out for mass adoption.

On many fronts, the tech is now ready to make robotic dreams a reality. All that remains with Amazon’s Home Robot is whether they have a trick up their sleeve or whether we’ll be served up with a glorified Alexa on wheels.

Final Word

Drop us a line any time with your thoughts on this pair of proposed devices. Do you think they’ll come to market and if so would you be interested in either? If you want to get involved discussing the very latest in domotics, we’ve got a forum here at Smart Home.

Don’t forget to bookmark our blog and come back soon for more of the very latest smart home news.

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