Reports indicate that online retail giant Amazon is developing a household robot. According to the reports Amazon is working on building a domestic robot that has been codenamed Vesta, the name for the Roman goddess of family, home and hearth. Gregg Zehr who currently runs the Lab126 R&D unit of Amazon that is located in Sunnyvale, California, is overseeing the project. Some of the hardware projects that Lab126 has been responsible for include the Fire Phone, Fire Tablets, Fire TV and Echo speakers.
While the Vesta project was started a couple of years ago it was only in this year that hiring was ramped up. On the jobs page of Lab126 there are various listings for such openings as ‘principle sensors engineer’ and ‘software engineer, robotics’.
Per sources Amazon intends to deploy the robots in the homes of the employees before this year ends. It is also likely that they could be deployed in the homes of consumers early next year. The timelines could change and Amazon has also been known to kill hardware projects in their gestation phase.
It was not immediately clear what kind of tasks the Amazon robot will be performing. According to sources it is likely that the household robot will be used as a mobile Alexa moving about with its users around the parts of the house that don’t possess Echo devices. Some of the features present in the prototypes include computer vision software and advanced cameras which are supposed to aid the robot in moving about like a driverless car. Max Paley, a former executive of Apple, is leading the efforts on computer vision. Mechanical engineers drawn from the robotics sector have also been hired by Amazon.
The robots Amazon is designing for homes are distinct from the ones that are built by Amazon Robotics, according to sources. Amazon Robotics is a subsidiary of the online retailer and is based in Germany and Massachusetts. The Amazon unit builds robots that are used in the fulfilment centers of the online retailer. Amazon Robotics was initially known as Kiva Systems, a company the online retailer purchased six years ago at a price of $775 million.
Amazon is not the first firm to try and build a domestic robot and companies and individuals alike have been giving it a shot for decades with mixed results. Roomba, a robot that specializes in vacuuming, is one of the most successful domestic robots in the world having sold over 20 million units in a 16-year period.