Nudge nudge, wink wink went the Professor. Something big is going on, he said. Take a look at the latest news on Bloomberg about Amazon’s new robot.
Once a university professor, the Sai Kung resident has moved on. Now he is full-time working for Amazon. “It is nice to know someone rich,” we said. Modestly he pooh-poohed this suggestion. We can’t give his name because he doesn’t have permission from boss Jeff Bezos.
Amazon’s Lab 126 is about to start testing a robot called Vesta, named after the Roman god of the home and family, according to Bloomberg and other financial news sites. Vesta will use cameras, computer vision software, artificial intelligence and voice activation to find its way around your home and map it. The robot will be designed to be good company with a nice personality. It will have useful functions, the obvious one vacuuming. Vesta will make its way around your house like a self-driving car going from room to room with you. Mobile robots are complex things so each Vesta is likely to cost around US$1000, but it will be making money in other ways, probably by collecting data about you. Not much is known about Vesta’s functionality at present. The project is “top-secret”.
Amazon is expected to begin testing Vestas in employees’ homes this year and selling them to the public in 2019. Few robots have been successful to date. One is iRobot Corp’s Roomba, which does just one thing, vacuuming. It has sold about 20 million units. Sony has produced generations of robotic dogs called Aibo. The latest version looks cute and costs US$1800 but can do little other than bark, although it has been programmed to play soccer.
Lab 126 is Amazon’s R&D operation in Sunnyvale, California, and producer of Echo speakers, Fire TV set-top-boxes and Fire tablets. Our Sai Kung professor won’t say what he personally is working on for Boss Bezos.