As a smart-home reviewer, I have always wanted a Rosie the Robot for my house. I used the Jetsons mechanical housekeeper as an example when I tried Amazon’s first home robotic, and it failed. It failed not just because it lacked arms but also because it was unable to do much.
According to documents seen by insider from Amazon, the company believes it has discovered the key to unlocking Astro’s full potential. Burnham is the secret AI robot Amazon is working on. According to documents, it adds “intelligence and conversational spoken interface” for a smart home robotic.
Astro, powered by Burnham, could be upgraded to use large language models and other advanced AI in order to create a robot at home that can understand the context of an active household and respond appropriately. According to Insider the documents show that the technology can “remember what it saw and understand” and then the robot could “engage in Q&A dialogue about what it saw”, and use AI powered LLMs to take action.
Documents describe, for example, an Astro product that uses Burnham to be able to locate a stove or faucet that has been left on and alert its owner. It can check on someone that has fallen, and dial 911 in an emergency. According to documents, it could help you find your keys, monitor if kids have friends over after school and check if windows were left open overnight. You can achieve some of these things with smart home technology, but it requires multiple devices and actions.
Amazon is also experimenting with initiating more complicated tasks. One example was a robot which, when it sees a piece of broken glass on the ground, prioritizes cleaning it up to avoid a potential hazard.
Amazon’s “Contextual understanding” is the “latest, most advanced AI technology that will make robots intelligent, useful and more conversational.” In other words, Rosie (without the arms).
Burnham won’t be coming to a robot near your home anytime soon. Amazon admits that Burnham is still a ways off from being a real product. The current Astro, which is not so smart, can only be purchased with an invitation. Its cost has just gone up to $1600 and reports that Amazon scrapped its plans to release a lower-cost version.
A home robot with the capabilities of Rosie, even in an age when tech companies such as Amazon are rapidly adopting generative AI, is still a science fiction character. Amazon stated in a document that “Our robot is strong.” “What we need next is brain” makes me rethink how much I want an AI-powered, intelligent robot to roam around my house.