The robot’s developers allegedly lack confidence in it.
Earlier this week, Amazon unveiled Astro, a new home robot. According to the press kits, Astro is more than just a pretty LED face; it’s intended to function as a home security sentry, provide basic care to the elderly, and just generally bring a cute, technological presence to your home. However, as is increasingly becoming the case when it comes to matters of technology, not everyone is convinced of the necessity and safety of devices like Astro. Surprisingly, though, some of the device’s most outspoken critics appears to be its very own developers.
Design documents obtained by Vice paint a rather iffy picture of Astro, and feature commentary allegedly sourced from several developers on the project. “Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity. The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,” a source who worked on the project said. “The device feels fragile for something with an absurd cost. The mast has broken on several devices, locking itself in the extended or retracted position, and there’s no way to ship it to Amazon when that happens.”
“They’re also pushing it as an accessibility device but with the masts breaking and the possibility that at any given moment it’ll commit suicide on a flight of stairs, it’s, at best, absurdist nonsense and marketing and, at worst, potentially dangerous for anyone who’d actually rely on it for accessibility purposes,” the source said.
— The Verge (@verge) September 30, 2021
Another developer noted that the device is “a privacy nightmare that is an indictment of our society and how we trade privacy for convenience with devices like Vesta.” To clarify, Vesta was Astro’s early-development codename.
Amazon, for their part, have dismissed these statements as fabrications. “These characterizations of Astro’s performance, mast, and safety systems are simply inaccurate. Astro went through rigorous testing on both quality and safety, including tens of thousands of hours of testing with beta participants. This includes comprehensive testing on Astro’s advanced safety system, which is designed to avoid objects, detect stairs, and stop the device where and when necessary.”