Amazon plans to bring a home robot to market as early as 2019. It is named as “Vesta” after the Roman goddess of home and family. The project is several years old, but hiring for it recently has ramped up with an eye toward placing prototypes in employees homes by the end of the year. The robot could be a mobile smart speaker. Some versions of the product apparently have cameras and computer vision software that allow them to travel through a home like a self-driving car. A homebot could be Amazon’s way of boosting its position in the home technology market, where it already has a strong lineup of products.
Amazon Echo already has a lead over Google Home in terms of ownership, according to consumer surveys and market share data. We could see this product evolve the Alexa experience from one consisting of a virtual assistant into a physical assistant. Amazon’s investments in artificial intelligence could come into play with a robotic product. Those investments could be leveraged very well with an advanced robot. Alexa can provide a range of commands to objects in the home, but those objects can’t fulfill tasks the way a robot can. It could sort groceries, answer the door, fetch a drink from the fridge and fold the laundry.
Home robots have been around for decades but without much success. A notable exception is Roomba, by iRobot, which performs a single function: vacuuming. It has sold more than 20 million units since 2002. iRobot’s stock sank 8.6 percent after news broke of Amazon’s robot plans. Robot vacuum cleaners represent a thin market sliver. They can be found in just 5-6 percent of broadband households. It is not a breakout product, but it is far and ahead the most commonly adopted robotic assistant.