Amazon Astro Evaluate: It is Cute, Getting Extra Automated and Not Price It But


Amazon’s new robotic helper Astro is that can be purchased by invite just for $1,000. I obtained my palms on one to check for over two weeks — and I wanted each minute of that point. Astro works as a wise show, a roving safety guard, a toy for the children and an errand-bot. And all of these options are constructed on an progressive piece of {hardware}.

However is Astro well worth the $1,000 early-access value — not to mention the $1,450 price ticket Amazon plans to provide it as soon as it turns into typically out there? Not but. For now, this robotic stays a luxurious merchandise, for individuals with some huge cash to check out a cutting-edge know-how that also lacks a compelling use case. And that is not essentially a nasty factor! Amazon’s Day 1 Editions are, in any case, experimental initiatives, and the event crew remains to be understanding Astro’s flaws and honing its options.

“Day 1 Version merchandise are all about bringing big-picture concepts to life and Astro is simply that,” stated an Amazon consultant. “It is Amazon’s first step into client robotics, however it will not be the final. It’s actual know-how within the palms of consumers and we’re already getting precious buyer suggestions, whereas on the similar time, optimizing core capabilities and including new options.”

In its capability as an funding by Amazon within the client robotics area, Astro is an enchanting system with a complete lot of persona and promise. However as a product you should buy and use in your home proper now, it merely lacks the utility or clear identification to make it well worth the value. Not that you simply’re more likely to have the possibility to purchase Astro quickly. It nonetheless is not out there to the general public, a 12 months after its huge reveal at Amazon’s annual gadgets and providers occasion.

Who’s Amazon Astro?

Amazon Astro appears to be like rather a lot like an Echo Present 10 sensible show on wheels. It has the identical 10.1-inch display with a 5-megapixel digital camera on the bezel — which helps you to video chat, albeit from a little bit of an ungainly angle — and two front-facing 55mm audio system with a passive bass radiator.

Like Echo Reveals, Astro additionally has Alexa on board, which may play music, stream TV exhibits, reply questions in regards to the climate and inform dangerous jokes, amongst many different issues.

As a result of Astro is so low to the bottom, it additionally has a method to change its perspective. A periscope, which emerges from the swiveling head of the system close to the mute and quantity buttons, provides a 12-megapixel digital camera and an extra 5-megapixel digital camera. You need to use these to take selfies and, extra virtually, to roam the home remotely when you’re away.

Astro has its personal distinct persona, expressed charmingly with its animated eyes and various robotic sounds.

Chris Monroe/CNET

After all, what units Astro aside are the wheels. The event crew at Amazon tailored navigation know-how lengthy used for robotic vacuums to assist Astro effectively map your home, then navigate easily and effectively when given easy voice instructions, like “go to the bed room” or “take this drink to Andrew in the lounge.” 

Mobility can be a vital facet of Astro’s rising set of automated options. In September 2022, Amazon introduced that the robotic will quickly be capable of add pet monitoring to its patrols and examine your home windows and doorways to warn you in the event that they’re open. Robotics packages at three universities may even get a software program growth package for Astro to start out constructing extra automated routines.

One other distinction, although it feels barely much less shaped so early in Astro’s life, is its persona. Not like Echo gadgets, Astro performs host to each the Amazon voice assistant Alexa and its personal quirky, nonverbal persona, expressed utilizing two animated eyes and all kinds of playful beeps, boops and purrs. This persona remains to be nascent, however it positively lends the little robotic a distinct taste than Amazon’s sensible show counterparts.

How properly does Astro work?

Astro accomplishes an unimaginable variety of duties, with broadly various efficiency. This is a breakdown of every of the essential classes of use, and the way Amazon’s little robotic truly carried out them.


Like lots of Amazon’s sensible dwelling gadgets, Astro has a brilliant streamlined setup course of, which prompts you thru the steps with on-screen instructions. The entire course of may have gone pretty rapidly, however I bumped into some points instantly.

Astro took for much longer to map the CNET Sensible Residence, the place I spent the majority of my time testing the system, than the half-hour touted by the app. You possibly can hear extra in regards to the course of in our first impressions video, however basically Astro didn’t map the home as a result of flooring have been too shiny, the home windows close to the charging station have been too brilliant, or the uncovered staircase descending from the entryway and surrounded by a railing could be throwing off the mapping course of (the Amazon consultant could not make certain whereas troubleshooting by telephone). So we lined the home windows and railing with cardboard to dim the sunshine and create a extra clear, wall-like boundary for Astro, set it to mapping the ground, and achieved success.


Astro struggled to map the CNET Sensible Residence’s first flooring, thanks partly to the home windows close to its charging dock. Protecting them in cardboard throughout setup solved the issue.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Relieved, I walked Astro from room to room, naming each and making small tweaks to the map within the app, so Astro would know which areas have been out of bounds and which areas have been free recreation.

Astro’s setup, in the event you do not run into these issues, is easy and straightforward — and it offers you some enjoyable concepts for the way to use the robotic. However as a product, it is nonetheless understanding the kinks. Staircases with railings round them aren’t notably uncommon architectural options, however Astro remains to be studying the way to map them. For what it is price, although, as soon as it had mapped the ground, I eliminated the cardboard and Astro navigated for the remainder of its time in the home with no major problem.


Maybe the obvious use case for Astro is as a house safety bot, a digital camera on wheels you could manually drive round your home when you’re gone, or you could set to patrol, along with your Ring and Alexa Guard dwelling safety equipment.

As a remote-controlled digital camera, Astro received me over. If you pull up the stay feed on the app, Astro chimes to let individuals in the home know they’re about to be on digital camera. Then the periscope cam peeks out of its housing and offers you a stay view of the home.

From the app, you’ll be able to navigate the area in quite a lot of methods, both urgent the ahead or again buttons, tapping spots on the feed for Astro to maneuver or deciding on rooms for Astro to zoom towards. You too can swipe left or proper to make Astro swivel, and slide the periscope up or down to realize a distinct perspective.

Briefly, I am a fan of the straightforward entry to monitoring your home — although it occurred to me as I used to be driving Astro round for the primary time how uncomfortable I’d be to search out out anybody moreover me had such thorough entry to my dwelling. However we’ll speak about privateness issues with Astro a little bit bit later.

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The other way to use Astro as a security device is by pairing it with your Ring Protect Pro subscription to patrol your house and send you notifications when it sees someone entering while you’re away.

The security setup ended up being at least as complicated as the initial mapping setup. I was simply unable to get my Ring app to discover and pair with Astro. After fiddling around for an hour, and unpairing and re-pairing my Ring account with my Alexa account, which reset all of my Echo smart speakers and smart displays (at least six of them), I reached out once more to my Amazon contact to troubleshoot. Long story short, I was asked to delete all of our Ring cameras from the app and unpair our Blink camera account from our Alexa account.

After I did so, Astro successfully paired with Ring.

Amazon said it has fixed this problem with Astro’s pairing since I tested the device.

To put Astro’s security chops to the test, we set the robot to “Away” and staged a break-in. My video producer, Chris (whose face Astro didn’t recognize), entered a back door about 25 feet from Astro’s dock, moved to the master bedroom, stole a large rock that definitely, probably had a geode inside, and exited the way he came.

The door Chris entered wasn’t directly in front of Astro, but if the robot swiveled right, it would have a clear view of the break-in. In our first attempt, Astro didn’t respond at all to the sound of Chris entering (extremely loudly, by the way).

Before our second attempt, I made sure that Alexa Guard was activated for a nearby Echo Dot — so the smart speaker would hear Chris, then presumably let Astro know what was going on. Again, Astro stayed put during the entire test.

Amazon Astro robot

Astro’s security chops show real promise, but the development team is clearly still working out a lot of kinks.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Before our third attempt, I reached out once more to Amazon to be sure I had everything set up correctly (I did), then decided to set Astro actively patrolling when Chris entered. This time, the test was more successful. Astro seemed to respond to the sound of Chris entering and intercepted him before he made it to the master bedroom.

Finally, we set Astro on its dock once again, and this time installed a Ring door/window sensor on the entry point for the break-in. Chris entered, tripping my Ring Alarm Pro’s loud siren, which sent me a notification of the break-in. Astro zoomed off the dock and turned the opposite direction to go investigate the dinette and kitchen areas.

I searched through the apps to find if there was a way to align my Ring door/window sensor placement (in the exercise room) with Astro’s layout of the house, but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work — a result of the byzantine interface shared between the Alexa, Astro and Ring apps.

Astro isn’t a great security device at present — but it does show promise. I know that it can navigate well through the house, and if the various platforms it uses can coordinate more effectively, it will be a great way to get eyes on an intruder without stationing cameras throughout your whole home.

Once more, for the moment, Astro’s reach exceeds its grasp.

Running errands

What really differentiates Astro from any other smart display is its mobility. That means you aren’t limited to asking for information: you can also ask for a hand with various tasks around the house — from delivering snacks to your kids to delivering reminders to your spouse to take out the garbage.

Alas, Astro itself can’t take out the garbage, or do many other tasks that aren’t accomplished by driving from A to B. You have to load the drinks or snacks to be delivered, and despite Astro using much of the navigation tech recent robot vacuums have used, you’ll still have to vacuum your own floors.

But as a factotum, even in its limited capacity, Astro is pretty reliable. I tested Astro’s ability to find one of my video producers in the CNET Smart Home (which is pretty large), and it took the little robot a few minutes — but it did find him. When we tested the robot’s ability to make deliveries in a messy house, Astro also succeeded in most of its tests.

Loading a drink into Astro for delivery

Astro can deliver drinks to family members or guests, and it’ navigation, even in a messy house, is seriously impressive.

Chris Monroe/CNET

This speaks to how impressive Astro’s navigation really is. It moves around the house quickly and efficiently, adjusting to changes in the environment, like shoes left by the front door or doors along one route left closed. And the longer it stays in your house, the better it becomes at navigating.

Over the time I spent with Astro, I saw it consistently improve at rerouting and at confidently navigating the space. At first, it struggled to avoid getting stuck on C-stands — the stands that hold lights used during filming — but by the second week, it didn’t have any issues with them anymore.

This is perhaps Astro’s most resounding success. And it’s not just because robot vacuums have done it before. Amazon’s developers had to adapt the existing navigation technology for robot vacuums to a very different purpose. Astro isn’t covering every inch of your floor; it’s moving much more quickly in a changing environment.

The one minor issue — aside from the rocky setup — was that Astro largely ignores obstacles that are less than an inch in height. That meant that it got stuck once or twice on my kids’ blocks, trying to simply drive over them. And it also ran over (fake) dog poop without hesitation.

Most of the time, though, this strategy works: Astro can take on changing surfaces, laundry and more without much trouble.

Playing with kids

When my kids heard that a real, live (sort of) robot was coming to our house, they were ecstatic. You could almost see visions of R2-D2 and Wall-E passing before their eyes. And when they first met Astro, they were amped.

They loved asking the little robot to dance, sing, beatbox, do the robot, act like a bumblebee and burp — and my two boys, who already interact with Alexa pretty often to play music or watch YouTube videos, were almost immediately comfortable with it.

But Astro’s novelty, like that of smart speakers in the early days, didn’t last as long as I expected. Within a few days, my kids were less interested in seeing Astro. If I prompted them to play with it, they would either dutifully tell it to do the robot or use it as another Echo Show device to play music or stream a video.

I happened to buy my kids a pet snail and pet betta fish at the same time that I began testing Astro, and the boys were actually about as interested in the new pets as they were in the robot — and maybe even more so — after a week and a half.

That isn’t to say Amazon’s developers, who aimed intentionally to create a pet-like product with Astro, were unsuccessful. Astro’s “personality” is adorable, complete with winks, beeps and boops. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Amazon hired character designers from animation studios to consult on Astro’s design.

But Astro posed three problems for my kids. First of all, it doesn’t listen as well as other smart speakers and displays, which Amazon attributes to the changing acoustics around it as it zooms through the house. The result for my kids was mild frustration, as they repeated “Astro” over and over, sometimes without any response.

Amazon Echo Show on a kitchen counter

Astro struggles to listen to wake words in part because the acoustics of its surroundings are constantly changing. Echo devices, by contrast, can optimize their listening to their environment — and achieve noticeably better results.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Secondly, and related to its difficulty hearing wake words, Astro often feels a little like it has multiple personalities. You can ask a question hoping for Astro’s quirky, nonverbal answer, only to receive Alexa’s disembodied voice reading a random snippet from Wikipedia or adding something to your shopping list. Or you can ask Alexa a question, only to get Astro cocking an inquisitive eyebrow at you. And while my kids are probably far more comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of voice assistants than most 4- and 6-year-olds, they quickly lose interest when they feel like they’re not being heard correctly.

Finally, while Astro’s character is charming, and if it were in a movie, it would be scene-stealing, it doesn’t have enough depth to provide more than an hour or two of entertainment for the kids — which is surprising, considering how much I’d heard about Astro’s kid-friendly character. Again, Amazon’s robot feels like it’s still in the novelty phase of smart speakers, during which people enjoyed hearing groaners or discovering Easter eggs with Alexa. In 2022, though, that feels a little less exciting.

An Echo Show on wheels?

Astro is much more than an Echo Show on wheels — but it’s still got a lot of the same features as an Echo Show. And in this case, they work really well. Astro’s dual 55mm speakers and passive bass radiator sound awesome, and having it follow you around playing the best-sounding music to come from a smart speaker or display is pretty cool.

Likewise, you can video chat with Astro, and it will follow you around as you do so. The angle is a little strange, but it works well for kids who have too many wiggles to sit at the counter while they talk with their grandma across the country.

And for anyone who feels the impulse to fill their house with Alexa smart speakers so they never have to shout to get the voice assistant’s attention, Astro can really help. You can even use your current smart speakers and displays to call Astro into the room with you.

Amazon Astro robot

Astro is a social robot. It will hang out in rooms where it knows people tend to congregate.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Astro will automatically hang out in rooms where it learns there’s lots of activity during the day, though I often found myself sending it back to its dock in these cases, as it had some trouble moving out of the way in our narrow kitchen. You can also activate routines with the little robot, so it comes into your room to play music when you’re ready to wake up, or so it patrols your house after you go to sleep.

These are nice features, and I can see them being genuinely helpful over time — though the benefit doesn’t outweigh the inconvenience for me so far.

Respecting your privacy

Amazon has done an impressive amount to protect your privacy with Astro, storing and processing most of its navigation and facial recognition on-device. Like Alexa-driven smart speakers and displays, you can also delete your query history on the Alexa app.

We’ve dived deeper into Astro’s security and privacy implications elsewhere, but my main concern is that Astro, like many other devices on the market, is smuggling even more cameras into homes. And though Amazon’s security measures seem impressive, cameras get hacked, and what’s presumed to be private very often becomes public when cameras are involved.

Troublingly, video devices inside our homes also normalize leading even the most intimate moments of lives on-camera. While we as adults may decide the convenience outweighs the deterioration of privacy, that’s not a status quo I want my children — whose affection Astro could certainly win over in time — to grow up with.

The Astro robot

Astro’s charisma belies a lot of privacy-eroding hardware.

Chris Monroe/CNET

So much more to Astro

This is an unusually long review, and I still feel like I’ve glossed over so much about Astro — its navigation technology (which also accounts for visually impaired users), its security measures and local processing, its personality (which sidesteps the uncanny valley so many voice assistants have languished in for years) and everything else it can do.

Amazon Astro is an ambitious device, both fascinating and frustrating. And it’s a pretty incredible step forward for smart home technology, if for no other reason than that it’s a robot you can actually buy and use in your home. The navigation in particular is impressive, and the security features and personality show true potential — even if they aren’t fully clicking yet. Astro is still in its invite-only early-access phase, after all, and it has plenty of time to grow.

But is it worth $1,000 — let alone $1,450 if and when it becomes more widely available? Not yet.

From a product standpoint, Astro still lacks a definite identity, a clear utility. Sure, it’s somewhat useful in a wide range of situations, but if I kept Astro around for another month or two, I guarantee I would simply be using it as little more than a mobile smart display (with admittedly banging speakers).

And when I consider its broader implications, I realize that the true price for Astro is less the money (although it’s a lot of money) than it is the privacy. I’m not ready to give a roving robot with three cameras and an array of microphones 24/7 access to my home and family — and I don’t think I’m in the minority on this point.

Check back in five years, though: Amazon’s Astro could prove me wrong.

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