Amazon Astro home robot

Astro is a home robot designed by Amazon for home security monitoring, remote care of elderly relatives, and as a virtual assistant that can follow a person from room to room.

Released in September 2021 and powered by the company's Alexa smart home technology and facial recognition, it can patrol a home automatically, notify owners if it detects something unusual, and be used to check on pets when people are not in their homes. 

Operator: Amazon
Developer: Amazon
Country: USA
Sector: Consumer goods
Purpose: Strengthen home security
Technology: Robotics; Computer vision; Facial recognition
Issue: Privacy; Surveillance; Safety; Accuracy/reliablity; Dual/multi-use; Appropriateness/need
Transparency: Black box

Risks and harms 🛑

The Amazon Astro home robot has raised concerns about potential safety issues such as unreliable person-detection, fragile parts, and the risk of falling down stairs, as well as privacy risks related to its facial recognition technology and vulnerability to cyber attacks.

Astro's launch was met with comments that it was both 'cute' and 'creepy'. 

Internal development documents and video recordings leaked to VICE suggest the robot may perform poorly and its person recognition capability is 'heavily flawed'. The documents also reveal that Astro designers worry that the product is a 'disaster that's not ready for release' and that it may 'throw itself down stairs' 'if presented the opportunity'. 

Gizmodo called a September 2022 announcement that Astro would function as a security guard connected to Ring security devices for homes and small businesses a 'big fat privacy hazard'.

Page info
Type: System
Published: September 2021
Last updated: May 2024