Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) has been pursuing an “ambitious, top-secret plan” to create the robot, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
Lab126, Amazon’s hardware research and development arm, is reportedly in charge of the project, codenamed “Vesta” after the Roman goddess of the hearth and home.
Concrete details are scarce, but the robots could essentially be mobile versions of Amazon Echo devices, able to follow people around the house, Bloomberg reported. This could take virtual assistant Alexa into new areas of the home and boost the effectiveness of smart home technology such as health sensors.
“People briefed on the plan say the company hopes to begin seeding the robots in employees’ homes by the end of this year, and potentially with consumers as early as 2019, though the timeline could change, and Amazon hardware projects are sometimes killed during gestation,” reporters Mark Gurman and Brad Stone wrote.
Amazon declined to comment for the Bloomberg story, citing a corporate policy against addressing rumors and speculation.
Known primarily as an e-commerce behemoth, Amazon has been making inroads into the U.S. health care system, mainly through the pharmacy space. Also, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (pictured above) has partnered with JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) CEO Warren Buffett in what appears to be an effort to create an innovative insurance approach for the companies’ workers.
The Echo—as well as Amazon technology being developed with seniors in mind—could help increase aging in place, allowing older adults to easily order needed items, control their home environments, and stay in touch with loved ones. But home care providers have also seen Amazon as a potential competitive threat—for instance, if the company’s goods or services start to lessen the need for traditional home caregivers.
It remains to be seen what an Alexa-style robot would look like, but it will probably be more of a mobile personal assistant than a full-on robotic “butler,” The Verge speculated. Robotics know-how has not yet progressed to the point where such a robot could plausibly be developed for widespread commercial use, according to the tech-focused news website.
Written by Tim Mullaney