Amazon smart home focuses on artificial intelligence

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Over the course of an hour on Tuesday, September 28, Amazon rolled out a raft of new smart home products, including an Alexa-powered robot, a wall-mountable Echo smart display, an interactive video phone for kids, the first video doorbell from its Blink division, new home-security products from its Ring subsidiary, and more.

Artificial intelligence—Amazon calls it “ambient” intelligence—was a common thread running through all these new products. The company says this will enable its disparate products to work together seamlessly to deliver an experience that’s more than the sum of its parts. But with a nod to consumers’ growing privacy concerns, each presenter emphasized the ways in which Amazon’s development teams had focused on reducing their products’ reliance on cloud computing, pushing more processing power to the device itself to keep information local and within the users’ control.

Here’s a quick recap of the most significant new product announcements, along with links to our deeper dives.

Astro

astro moving around home Amazon

Amazon’s Astro autonomous household robot will navigate your home using the same technology that the best robot vacuums utilize.

Amazon has been working on a household robot for years, so it’s no surprise that Astro is essentially an Alexa on wheels. The company seems intent on giving the bot its own personality, however, as it will respond to its own wake work, and animated eyes on its display will react to your verbal commands.

Astro can do everything an Echo Show can, including making two-way video calls, streaming movies and TV shows, and controlling our smart home devices. Amazon also suggests its bot will make a great companion for people aging in place, while helping remote caregivers maintain personal connections with them. Having its camera mounted on a periscope allows the robot to scan areas that would otherwise be out of its field of view, and it can be tied into a Ring Alarm home security system (provided you have a Ring Protect Pro service plan) to patrol your home, react to sensor alerts, and warn you when it encounters unfamiliar people in your home.  

Like higher-end robot vacuums, the three-wheeled Astro uses simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology to navigate your home’s interior, moving around objects newly in its path and automatically braking if a pet or object moves in front of it. You can read more about Astro at the preceding link.

Echo Show 15

amazon echo show 15 main Amazon

The new Amazon Echo 15 can be deployed in portrait or landscape mode, with the option of hanging on the wall.

The rumors of a wall-mounted Echo smart display came true with the unveiling of the Echo Show 15, although it can be set up on a countertop as easily as hung on a wall. Boasting a 15.6-inch, 1080p touchscreen, the Echo Show 15 can operate in either portrait or landscape mode. Its onboard camera will recognize your face as you approach, and it will then display customized information—your reminders, calendar events, sticky notes, or even the music you were just listening to—accordingly.

In keeping with Amazon’s privacy initiative, the new smart display is powered by Amazon’s quad-core AZ2 Neural Edge processor, which will process voice commands locally instead of sending voice recordings to the cloud. You can read more about the Echo Show 15 at that link.

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