Amazon Product Event 2021: Key takeaways

Astro by Amazon

Last week, Amazon set out a clear roadmap and unveiled new products at their Autumn event. All timed to raise awareness, consideration and desire ahead of the holiday season.

We were particularly excited about Astro, and the brand new Echo Show 15.

Amazon has defined a clear vision with Alexa at its heart and where the Echo Show product line is going. A voice assistant centred digital photo frame that can hang on the wall, replacing the kitchen TV once and for all. We would argue this is the perfect Alexa device, creating even more excitement around multimodality. Use cases include family reminders, calendars, to-do lists, which in all will inevitably replace notes on the fridge as well as access to a wealth of information and engagement potential at the heart of the family unit.

The Echo Show 15 boasts increased processing power which  could solve existing latency issues which have been plaguing voice assistants, resulting in significantly improved voice UX and facilitating new conversational paradigms like “barge in”. These continuous technical improvements contribute to more fluent conversational devices day by day.

Amazon Astro. Say hello to the new 3-wheeled Alexa

As users, we’re excited that Astro is showing us the future. We all clung on to the idea that helpful droids that understood the context of the situation like Weebo, C3PO and R2D2 were going to be available for us one day. Our CEO Charlie can talk for hours about sci fi inspiration for today’s voice assistants!

Astro is essentially Alexa on wheels, so you can talk to it in the same way you talk to an Alexa device – whether you want new audio content or use your favourite Alexa Skill.

Astro is designed to do tasks like playing music, helping you keep in touch with family and monitoring your home. According to the Astro ad, the robot can do things like go to your kitchen to check if your hob has been left on with its built-in periscope camera, bring you beer, and talk to grandparents via video call.

As if it wasn’t clear enough already: Astro is Amazon’s next step in integrating Alexa into the home, taking their voice strategy to a whole new level. In a similar way to the Echo Show voice assistant, you can ask it to follow you (well, except this one), play your favorite music, podcasts, or shows while you do your chores, as well as take photos and video calls. Additionally when you’re not at home, you can use the Astro app on your smartphone to scour around, check on things you may have forgotten to do before you left, and detect any intruders through its facial recognition software. This is all possible by simply using your voice a step towards C-3PO.

stro combines AI, computer vision, sensor technology, voice and edge computing – all of which will help make life easier and bring more benefits as mentioned earlier. Despite the fact that Astro can “bring Alexa to you around the home” if you have a multi level property, you will need more than just the Astro to remain connected to Alexa, so your other Echo devices will still be needed.  Like daleks, Astros can’t climb stairs.

Astro is a home robot that has several capabilities, with the primary way to interact with it is by talking. This just serves as proof that voice is crucial, and we will continue talking to technology now and in the future to come. It will gather a lot of data, including customer behaviour and voice recordings, to a full map of the customer’s home and the faces of everyone who visits it. Amazon has said that data will be stored locally, and users can delete voice recordings and home maps daily. Just like Alexa.

Besides creating some utility and benefits for customers, Astro’s ability to move also provides an enjoyable, entertaining, and engaging way to experience voice technology. You won’t just have to go toward the device, it can come to you!

Currently, Astro is available exclusively through invitation across 50 US states. David Limp, an Amazon executive, said Astro’s current purpose is to introduce it into the wild and identify ‘unique use cases’.

Astro could influence future robots that you can talk to, like you already do with your voice assistant with this experiment that will start taking place in people’s homes later this year.

As with all technical advancements there will be several iterations before they are perfect but this is a clear indication of the path forward as the physical manifestation of a helpful assistant, with voice as the primary interface.