Amazon to brick all Astro robots, pivoting to a consumer focus - The UpStream

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Amazon to brick all Astro robots, pivoting to a consumer focus

posted Sunday Jul 7, 2024 by Scott Ertz

Amazon is known for some bonkers product ideas. One of the more inexplicable products was the Astro robot - a product announced in 2021 that had a huge $2350 price tag and seemingly absolutely no point, or at the best case, no focus. Now, Amazon has informed internal staff that those who made the very large purchase will be left with a bricked robot in just a few months.

What was the Amazon Astro?

Amazon Astro, developed by Amazon.com, Inc., was a home robot that combined security, remote care, and virtual assistance features. Unlike traditional static security cameras, Astro autonomously navigated through your living space, acting as a vigilant sentry while you're away. Users could remotely direct it to specific rooms or areas for targeted monitoring.

Beyond security, Astro could have provided peace of mind by allowing users to check in on elderly relatives or family members. Its intelligent capabilities made it a theoretically helpful companion for ensuring safety and well-being. Astro was also integrated with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant. It followed users from room to room, providing information, reminders, and assistance wherever they went within their homes. Whether you need to know the weather, set a timer, or ask a general question, Astro could have been there to assist.

The problems with Astro

The biggest issue with Astro was Amazon's complete lack of focus on the product. Was it a security camera? Kind of. Was it a home health companion? Kind of. Was it a personal assistant? Kind of. But, it didn't appear to try and do any of them well. Instead, it did all of them about as well as any universal product ever does anything.

Another issue that affected the Astro's longevity and support has been a constantly changing set of hardware priorities at Amazon. In August 2022, the company announced the purchase of iRobot, the maker of the Roomba home cleaning robot. After the purchase was completed in November 2022, the company laid off its robotics division, the people who had planned and designed the Astro.

Nearly a year later, legendary product manager Panos Panay left Microsoft for Amazon overseeing all products and services. This was a similar job position he had at Microsoft for years, except Amazon is better known for wild and crazy product experiments, giving him more leeway to explore hardware and services.

The end of Astro

With Astro's makers and designers gone and Panos Panay taking over the division, the future of the devices was immediately in peril. One indication that Amazon was not highly focused on bringing Astro to the full marketplace was that the product up to and including today never left its invite-only initial release phase.

As initially revealed by GeekWire, the company has let staffers know that they had discontinued work on the product and that the devices in the wild would stop functioning on September 25, 2024.

Interestingly, the product listing is still available, though the price has been discounted from its initial $2350 to $1599. The company is offering a full refund, plus a $300 credit to help replace Astro in the scenarios in which it was being used. There is no indicationthat Amazon wants the device back. In fact, they have recommended that customers recycle the robot. Almost certainly, someone will figure out a way to repurpose these expensive and odd device and give it a new life.

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