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Amazon introduced its own hardware for the first time a decade ago with the launch of the Kindle. The Amazon Echo made its debut four years ago. Both have become widely used, but Amazon is not stopping here. A recent hiring spree indicates that Amazon is secretly working on a domestic robot for everyday consumers.
Carrying codename "Vesta," the service robot may be able to navigate through homes using a combination of cameras and vision software. The Vesta project is being run by Gregg Zehr, head of Amazon's Lab126 hardware research and development segment. The Echo, Fire TV, Fire tablets, and failed Fire Phone have all come from this R&D division.
Vesta has been under development for several years now, but Amazon only recently began to seek top talent for Lab126. New software engineers and hardware engineers are being recruited specifically for robotics applications.
Amazon is seeking to put robots into the homes of employees before the end of this year, while the general public may see a release of Vesta as soon as 2019. However, there is no guarantee that the project will make it past early trial phases.
Although there are few details known at this point, some familiar with the project believe that the robot will act as a mobile Alexa. Acting much like a self-driving car inside a house, Vesta could follow you around and be ready for any query thrown its way. Despite being a robot, Vesta is completely separate from projects at Amazon Robotics, a subsidiary formed from Kiva Systems in 2012 that works on warehouse automation systems.
As concerns for privacy are becoming more prevalent, there is a high level of trust required to allow a robot equipped with computer vision and audio recording capabilities into your home. Amazon has shown reasonably good faith regarding how its Alexa platform data is being used, but offering up data about how one lives at home could go beyond the tolerance of data collection for many.