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Amazon is reportedly plotting to launch a series of home robots, and although it's unclear what these domestic helpers would do, the one certainty is that the company already has the software stack in place to make the project a success.
Bloomberg reported that Amazon's Lab126, which incubates new products and services, is working on a domestic robot codenamed Vesta. The Vesta robot effort is different than the Amazon robotics business formed via the 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems. The Kiva deal helped Amazon automate its fulfillment centers.
Domestic robots for Amazon aren't that much of a leap. If anything, all Amazon is doing is giving Alexa a body. These helpers could do chores -- think iRobot -- or simply be companions. There are also multiple extensions into health care, enterprise collaboration and naturally e-commerce.
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Amazon's domestic robot efforts are likely to succeed largely because the company has shown it can do the following:
- Leverage its existing ecosystem (think Alexa developers and skills)
- Subsidize hardware for share (think Kindle Fire)
- And add features and skills quickly via its cloud infrastructure and Amazon Web Services. (See also: Top cloud providers 2018: How AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Oracle, Alibaba stack up)
In fact, that latter point will determine whether Amazon's domestic robots work out in the long run. With that in mind, here's a quick scan of what Amazon already has as a robot stack of software. Hardware is really the only wild card in the equation. Consider the following robotic brain processing parts already available:
- Alexa, gives the robots a voice and a control center. The UI of any robot would be Alexa. (See also: Why Amazon's Alexa Skill Blueprints are a master stroke | Custom Alexa skills: How the average person can make one in minutes | Amazon Alexa: The smart person's guide)
- Amazon Lex is service for building conversational interfaces with voice and text. Amazon Lex has speech recognition and natural language processing. Amazon Lex also works with various chat bots.
- Amazon Rekognition, a computer vision service that can analyze images and video. Perhaps this domestic robot from Amazon can tell you when you need to repair something (and then order parts from Amazon).
- AWS DeepLens, a machine learning enabled video camera. DeepLens runs deep learning models locally on a camera, analyzes, and then takes action. This tool would be very handy in a robot.
- Amazon SageMaker, a service that can train models. SageMaker also provides integration with DeepLens. (See also: Should Amazon be your AI and machine learning platform?)
- A vast compute stack featuring Lambda, Cognitio, CloudWatch, DynamoDB, and various Internet of things services.
What's interesting here is that most domestic robot players would build the hardware and then likely struggle with efforts to add an ecosystem, cloud processing, and things like computer vision and machine learning. AWS is working from the stack back to the front end hardware. All things considered, domestic robots from Amazon should be an easy layup -- assuming it can nail the hardware design. And given Amazon has done well with its Echo line and Fire tablets, there's no reason to think that its domestic robots will be too homely for consideration.
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