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According to Vice, some of the individuals working on Amazon’s Astro home robot are dissatisfied with it. One person who worked on the robot, which was announced today, reportedly described it as a “disaster that isn’t ready for release,” while another described it as “terrible,” and the idea that it’d be a useful accessibility device (part of Amazon’s pitch is that Astro can help with elder care) as “absurdist nonsense.” The sources reportedly stated that the bot does not navigate stairs well, with one even suggesting that if given the chance, it would “throw itself down” them.
To make matters worse, Vice says that the robot is frail, with numerous components damaged. That’s bad news for a $1,000 (or $1,449) robot that lives on the floor and is prone to being trodden on by toddlers, kicked by inattentive adults, or attacked by dogs who are annoyed by its presence.
Following the publication of this article, Amazon submitted a response to The Verge claiming that the papers mentioned in the report were out of date and that the characterizations did not accurately reflect how effectively Astro works today.
Vice uncovered leaked documents and recordings of developer sessions that reveal Astro is conducting extensive surveillance using its face recognition technologies and the function that follows individuals around if it does not identify them. According to Vice, it isn’t very good at determining who the folks are, which may lead to Astro annoyingly nibbling at the heels of people it should know. One of those who worked on it described the data collecting as a “privacy nightmare.”
In response to this news, Amazon issued the following statement:
“These assessments of Astro’s performance, mast, and safety features are just incorrect. Astro underwent extensive quality and safety testing, involving tens of thousands of hours of testing with beta participants. This involves comprehensive testing on Astro’s enhanced safety system, which is meant to avoid obstacles, recognize stairs, and stop the gadget as needed.”