A woman and the Astro robot by Amazon

Amazon launches household robot Astro for home monitoring

Online retailer Amazon has debuted Astro, a robot with smart technology that can monitor a user's home, check in on family members and deliver household items.

Designed to "help with everyday tasks", Amazon's Astro robot can complete a variety of domestic tasks, such as patrolling the home to monitor unusual activity and work with an upcoming Alexa service to help caregivers stay in touch with "aging loved ones".

Astro robot following a woman around the house
Top: Astro can deliver phone calls. Above: it can move autonomously around the home

During set-up, users can programme the robot to learn a map of their home. Advanced learning algorithms and sensitive sensors then allow it to move around autonomously and monitor unusual activity.

When the robot is not used, it will "hang out close by at the ready," the company said.

When the owner is not at home, Astro can be used to check in on the home. Using an integrated app, users can remotely send Astro to check specific rooms or people.

Astro robot and a man shutting a door
Astro monitors the house when users aren't home

"When you're away, use the Astro app to see a live view of your home, check in on specific rooms and viewpoints and get activity alerts," said the brand.

"If you want to see if you left the stove on, or to confirm you have all the ingredients you need for dinner in the pantry while you’re still at the store, you can send Astro to check or use its built-in periscope camera to take a better look," it continued.

Astro uses Intelligent Motion technology to move. This "uses advances in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) to help Astro understand where it is, and autonomously navigate around dynamic home environments that constantly change," Amazon said.

An elderly man talks to the Astro robot
It can be paired with a new Amazon caregiving service

The 44-centimetre-tall robot can also be trained to recognise family members using a computer vision feature called visual ID. If the robot comes across someone it doesn't recognise, it will send an alert to the owner.

It can also deliver a household item or a call to a specific person once it has learned how to identify them.

Amazon aimed to give the robot a personality to help it interact with users. It communicates with digital eyes on a rotating screen, as well as through body movements and "expressive tones."

Astro robot on a wooden floor
Astro can be combined with a new service called Alexa Together

When paired with the upcoming Alexa Together service, Astro will be able to provide remote care for family members.

"When used with Alexa Together, a new service designed to help family members feel more comfortable and confident living independently, family members can set up reminders and receive alerts to give caregivers the reassurance that their loved ones are active and going about their day," Amazon said.

To avoid any accidents, the device features obstacle avoidance technology. A variety of safety sensors mean Astro can detect obstacles, such as stairs, in real-time.

Control features such as active breaks will also help stop the device if a pet or other unexpected motion suddenly moves into its path.

A man sits on the floor with an Astro robot
The robot includes all the same features as Alexa

Astro also has all the features of Alexa, Amazon's voice-controlled virtual assistant. Using the same technology, it can deliver calls, messages, timers, alarms or reminders.

"It can find you to deliver reminders, let you know that a timer went off, snap a family photo, and notify you of incoming Alexa calls — with the ability to follow you around your home while you are on the call," the brand explained.

Astro robot carrying a cup
The robot can carry items to family members

Astro will initially be available in limited quantities to customers in the US later this year.

It is the latest in a line of controversial Amazon products that monitor human activity. The online retailer came under scrutiny for patenting a wristband that tracks its warehouse staff productivity using vibrations.

Last year, it released a flying security device called Ring Always Home Cam which was criticized for invading privacy.