It has been a little over a month since Amazon introduced their very first home robot, Astro. For the handwringing and sweat-inducing price tag of $999, you can get this Wall-E wanna-be to do limited bidding while also trying to keep your home safe from intruders. The big question, though, is one we hope to answer – Is Astro worth the price?
As far as home robots go, Astro resembles a beefed-up Roomba vacuum. It is short and squat, resting and moving on two large wheels, and has a large, attached screen with two orbs for eyes. It’s hard to say if the overall result is creepy or cuddly, though “creepy” is just how it has been described, but more on that in a bit.
Basically, what you are getting for your dime is an overgrown camera on wheels, which is part of the problem and part of the solution. Astro’s main purpose is to keep your house secure by roaming it at night, looking for anything that may be out of whack. But critics were quick to jump on the home robot, calling it creepy (leaked documents tell just how creepy) and terrifying. They also pointed out that if stairs were involved, Astro just may decide to jump.
If it seems like we are agreeing with earlier critical reactions, well, you may be on to something there. Why? Well, the first thought here is exactly that question – why? As in, why would we actually need an Astro tooling around the house?
The home robot doesn’t really do what we think a home robot should. It doesn’t have any attached appendages, so it is useless in that respect. Yes, you can purchase a cup holder so you can send a cool beverage to someone in another room, but that novelty wears off pretty much after bending down to load it in.
You can also load it with some snacks to take to another room, but again, it’s a novel idea that loses interest fast. Again, there is also that “stairs” issue we mentioned earlier. If Astro has to tangle with any stairs, even if it is going down a couple into a family room or living room, it’s a useless robot.
Astro’s key feature and selling point is its ability to patrol the home. You can send the home robot to patrol a pre-set route at set times throughout the day and night and it will notify you if it detects anything amiss.
While you’re away, you have the ability via its app to send Astro around the house, making sure all is kosher. It is equipped with a periscope that can raise and lower, so you can tap the app to send Astro into the kitchen, the raise the periscope to make sure all burners are turned off.
Here’s the thing though. Say a burglar did break-in and saw Astro peeking at it with its questioning peepers, wouldn’t it be simple to walk right over to it and dropkick it? Wouldn’t a better security option be to snag a must less expensive set of security cameras and set them up in unsuspecting places throughout your home?
Amazon has plans to introduce a few other features to their home robot and the current features it possesses, such as calls, messages, timers, and alarm alerts, can be handled again by a much cheaper device, such as Amazon’s Echo.
It seems like Amazon wasted a great opportunity here with Astro. With its design, they could have easily included a vacuum feature. Heck, if the thing is going to patrol the inside of your home, why not also have it clean the floors?
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Another issue that is being seen early on is that Astro is only giving buyers two hours of battery life before it has to hightail it back to its base for a charge. Yikes.
If all this isn’t enough of a home robot bummer, then trying to actually purchase one may be the icing on the proverbial cake. The $999.99 price tag is for those “invited” to purchase the “Day 1” edition. To get that “invite” you need to head to Amazon’s Astro page, to request an invite.
Amazon does warn you, by way of notice on the page, that Astro is of limited quantities, so gaining an invite is not guaranteed. If you are one of the unlucky ones not to get an invite, you can tack on an additional $500 to the price tag.
Not all is lost, though, for Astro. Especially if Amazon were to actually drop the price by $500 or more. It’s just hard to imagine shelling out that kind of cash for a home robot that doesn’t really do home robot things. Or at least not things we would need from a home robot.
But we will leave the ultimate decision up to you. It is, after all, your money. To show you what Astro is all about and what it can offer you at home, Amazon put together a short trailer. You can watch it below.