Amazon’s long-rumored home robot is at a "late-prototype stage", according to a new leak — but it may launch as a limited invite-only product.
The project, code-named “Vesta”, has reportedly been in the works for four years and now involves more than 800 employees. But, according to the report from Insider (opens in new tab), it has been beset by multiple problems and Amazon staff are skeptical about its prospects.
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Insider said it has seen an internal document about Vesta and has also spoken to six people directly involved in the project, on condition of anonymity.
These sources detail a catalogue of "shifting strategies and delayed launch dates," and question whether Vesta will actually prove popular with consumers.
Some have even gone as far as to compare the project to the Fire Phone, Amazon’s botched attempt at entering the smartphone market, which cost it around $170 million back in 2014.
There are also reportedly concerns over whether Vesta is worth all the time and resources that have gone into it, particularly given some employees' fears that it will only ever be a niche product.
What is the Amazon Vesta robot?
Do these sources have a point? Well Vesta certainly sounds niche — though that doesn't necessarily mean it won't be a success.
So what is it? Well, Vesta is said to be an Alexa-powered robot that roams around your home, equipped with a screen and multiple cameras. Sources described it as a “Fire Tablet on wheels”.
One Vesta prototype is said to be the same size as “two small cats," which — according to Insider — is around 10-13 inches wide, though presumably it depends on the cat.
The design is apparently similar to a picture Jeff Bezos posted on Instagram (opens in new tab), featuring an Echo device taped to a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t sound as if the Vesta will be doing any cleaning, though — which feels like a missed opportunity.
Vesta robot price and features
There’s no guarantee that Amazon will ever release the Vesta. The Insider report says that early sales projections are low, and that it could initially be launched as a limited invite-only product, mirroring the approach that Amazon took with the fitness band Amazon Halo.
And if Amazon Vesta does arrive, it’s expected to be the most expensive device Amazon has produced. Given that the priciest Amazon product right now is the $250 Echo Show 10 (opens in new tab), it’s clear that this won’t be a budget device.
It's also quite possible that the finished product will look very different from the prototype. The Vesta team has apparently been considering various new approaches to make it more marketable, some of them based around remote working — a hot topic at the moment for obvious reasons.
Among these proposals are that Vesta could be positioned as "a mobile meeting platform" that follows you around the house and stops you from having to sit at your desk continuously.
Other suggestions include plug-ins and widgets that would turn Vesta into an environmental monitoring system, adding compartments so it can carry things around and utilizing fire detection and home security technology.
Amazon Vesta robot outlook
Right now it's clear that Vesta could become any number of things — so the fact that Amazon apparently still hasn’t figured out what to do with it after four years doesn't bode well for its prospects.
That said, we're not going to write it off at this point — and it's quite possible that the Vesta robot will end up being a success. We'll be watching with interest to see what happens.
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