Amazon is developing a mobile robot for the home, Bloomberg reported Monday. Sources familiar with the project told Bloomberg that the company’s Lab 126, which created products like the Echo and the Kindle, is now working on a robot called Vesta. They speculate that Vesta may be like an Alexa that can accompany people to places in their homes where there aren’t any smart speakers. The prototypes have advanced cameras and vision software that will allow the robot to autonomously navigate through homes.
Bloomberg reports that the project began a few years ago, but it now appears that Amazon is boosting development by hiring dozens of robotics engineers based on job listings for Lab 126. The plan is currently to deploy the robots to employees’ homes by the end of 2018 and to customers by as early as 2019. There is a chance, however, that Amazon will postpone the release or decide to terminate the project.
Based on the state of current technology, it’ll be quite some time before Amazon or anyone else releases a robot that can do chores (except for vacuuming of course), though mobile smart speakers may become a trend in the near future. As the Verge points out, a number of companies are developing or have already released mobile robot assistants, such as Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri or LG’s larger version of the Hub.
Amazon, however, seems to be one of the first tech giants to take on the challenge of building a domestic robot. During an earnings report last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company would be making a “big investment” in autonomous systems with applications beyond vehicles, which some tech analysts took to mean the company might also be looking into building robot helpers for the home. Yet, it’s unclear at the moment if anything of the sort is in development. Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence nonprofit, OpenAI, is also conducting research that it says will eventually allow a robot to do simple housework.
Slate has reached out to Amazon for comment, and we will update the post if we receive a response.