“Alexa, ask Astro to come in here.”
I’m sitting on a couch in a simulated living room at Amazon’s Lab126 product R&D lab in Sunnyvale, California. Amazon VP of products Charlie Tritschler, who has been describing the company’s new home robot to me, is summoning the bot from another room, where it’s been biding its time before making an appearance.
The squat, gleaming white bot rolls through the door and into the area where Tritschler, principal product manager Anthony Robson, and I have been discussing it. After negotiating a carpet, it whirs in my direction. But it eventually uses facial recognition to spot Tritschler, who’s in a nearby armchair, and wheels up to him.
Code-named “Vesta,” Astro has been in the works for four years—and has been the subject of rumor and speculation for almost as long. The robot has been described as “Alexa on wheels,” which is accurate as far as it goes: It uses Amazon’s voice assistant for control and packs features—from…