Amazon Reportedly Planning More Powerful Echo, Alexa-Powered Home Robot

 

Amazon already has a sizeable foothold in homes with its Alexa-powered Echo products, but Google has eaten into its market share with the Home devices. Meanwhile, Apple is converting some of its fans with the HomePod. Amazon is reportedly inching closer to more advanced Echo devices to combat these threats: There’s a premium smart speaker as well as an Alexa-powered home robot.

Both devices are supposedly in development at Amazon’s Lab126 facility in Sunnyvale, California. The premium Echo speaker seems like a solid upgrade and will almost certainly launch in the coming months. All of Amazon’s competitors in the smart speaker market have a more powerful speaker offering — for example, Google’s Home Max. Even the best current Echos can’t hold a candle to that.

Amazon has previously offered a standalone subwoofer for Echo speakers,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce but that misses the point of modern smart speakers. They make sense as devices you can set on a table or shelf without a lot of setup. When they become systems that take over your room, you lose that feeling of convenience. The new Echo will be a single unit with a wider body that can accommodate four tweeters and a sub.

Amazon’s other smart home project is a bit more ambitious. The Alexa home robot, code-named Vesta, first popped up in a Bloomberg report last year, but now there are more details. The smart home automaton is reportedly about waist-high with wheels to travel around your home. Vesta uses advanced cameras and sensors to navigate around obstacles, not unlike a self-driving car.

Echo Dot

It sounds like Vesta is intended to follow you around the house, but to do what? If it’s just a glorified Alexa speaker with wheels, that doesn’t seem like a compelling product. After all, a robot is sure to be expensive compared with just adding a few more smart speakers to your house for more coverage. If Vesta has some killer feature, we don’t know what it is yet.

Bloomberg claims Vesta was initially set for an early 2019 launch, but unknown issues with the design caused a delay. Amazon hasn’t committed to a specific launch timeline as it moves forward with development. Several home robotics companies have gone bust in the last few years. But Amazon has deep enough pockets to take a swing at it. And who knows, maybe people will like having an Amazon robot follow them around.

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