While the world waits with baited breath to find out which lucky city will be the site of Amazon’s second headquarters, Bloomberg reports that the e-commerce giant has been quietly working on a new project that could have even bigger implications—domestic robots.
Code-named “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family, the project could put robots in the homes of employees by the end of this year, with a rollout to consumers potentially happening as early as 2019.
Citing “people familiar with the plans,” Bloomberg says it’s unclear what functions the robot might be able to perform. But given the success of Amazon Echo and its Alexa smart assistant, it’s reasonable to expect the robot to at least be able to perform Alexa-powered functions—kind of like an Echo on wheels.
The project appears to be under the umbrella of Amazon’s Lab126, the company’s hardware research and development division in Sunnyvale, California. Lab126 has been responsible for every major hardware offering in Amazon’s history.
Amazon has seen mixed results with hardware in the past. The Kindle was a smash hit that changed the way people read books, and the Echo appears to be well on its way to having a similar impact in the smart home space. However, the Amazon Fire Phone failed in spectacular fashion, while the Fire tablet and the FireStick OTT device have had varying success.
Home robots have long been a consumer tech obsession. Both tech heavyweights (i.e. LG) and startups alike are busy working on robots for the home, but so far the most practical of any of these developments is still probably vacuuming bots like iRobot’s Roomba. An Amazon home robot could become the first of its kind to go mainstream.
And if there was any doubt about the market’s expectations for Amazon’s entry into the robot space, take a look at iRobot’s stock price today. It plummeted upon the news of Amazon’s Vesta project. Stay tuned.