Amazon's Robot Can Now Call The Cops

Amazon unveiled the cute — and somewhat creepy – Astro robot a year ago, pushing it as an Alexa-ready tablet on wheels that will follow you around. A year later, the company is adding a couple of neat tricks to its kitty. The first one is the ability to call the authorities if the situation demands it.  Targeted at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this new feature works in tandem with Ring security cameras that offer the Vital Security Guard feature. This functionality lets the camera send alerts if it detects motion. Amazon is tying that system to the Astro robot.

Every time a Ring camera alarm goes off after spotting a suspicious movement, a professional monitoring team will take over Astro's camera hardware remotely to see what's going on. If the remote monitoring agents detect any concerning activity like a break-in, they will directly inform the appropriate law enforcement body. The feature will be extended to Amazon's business customers in the coming months, but there is no word if it will be a paid perk or whether a free update will enable it.

Amazon also wants the Astro to play well with pets, specifically cats and dogs. Pet supervision will be possible when Astro embarks on its routine patrols in a house. If your pet comes in the robot's camera view, it will send you pictures or videos of your pet. If needed, the robot will also start a Live View video call, letting you command your pet via the screen.

It's getting smarter, but you still can't buy it

But in order to ensure that the pet guarding duty doesn't become an alert flood nightmare, the robot won't text a pet owner more than once in a 5-minute period, reports CNET. The frequency of Amazon's patrols is a function that users can choose to tweak or disable at their own will. But this is just a start toward making the Astro less gimmicky. To that end, Amazon is adopting what it calls multimodal AI processing that will let users teach Astro to perform custom tasks like learning a door's position and what it looks like, both via video capture and audio commands.

Amazing is also distributing a dedicated software development kit (SDK) for the Astro robot to open up the feature development ecosystem, allowing interested developers and researchers to come up with new Astro capabilities. The strategy is not unique as Xiaomi is already doing the same with its cyber dog, but Amazon's reach ensures that the developer ecosystem will jump into action with more enthusiasm and at a larger scale. Unfortunately, the Astro is still an invite-only purchase, and there is still no word on when Amazon plans to launch it widely a whole year after its official reveal.