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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Amazon to sell $2,350 Astro robot for businesses in bid to boost interest

Astro, an AI robot created by Amazon, maps the lobby of the University of Washington Law School’s William H. Gates Hall on Sept. 15, 2022, in Seattle.  (Kylie Cooper/The Seattle Times)
By Mark Gurman Bloomberg Inc. is introducing a $2,350 version of its Astro robot aimed at businesses, trying to find new life for a product that has been slow to take off with consumers.

The new model – designed to work as a rolling security guard – costs $750 more than the consumer version, which launched two years ago. It also comes with a $60-a-month subscription called Astro Secure, which Amazon says allows the robot to patrol areas on its own.

Since Amazon first unveiled the Astro in 2021, the company has promised a Jetsons-like vision of robots handling household tasks. The $1,600 wheeled device sports a flat screen and periscope camera, and can respond to Alexa voice commands.

Amazon has been slow to ship the robot in large quantities. It’s remained a niche product unknown to many consumers.

With the new version, Amazon may have a clearer application: helping businesses keep an eye on their premises.

Though the robot’s hardware is similar to the original model, it can patrol 5,000 square feet, up from 3,500 on the consumer version.

The offering is part of a growing range of Amazon security services, an area that’s become a key focus since the company bought the Ring smart doorbell maker in 2018.

Amazon is selling a $20-a-month Ring Protect Pro feature for storing security footage and a $99-per-month option that can call emergency services if an issue is detected.

Taken together, the services will run about $180 a month – on top of an Astro price tag that will set businesses back thousands of dollars.

That represents a particularly ambitious attempt by Amazon’s hardware division to generate more recurring revenue.

Amazon began testing some of the security services last year on the existing Astro.

The increased mapping area required additional storage and memory capacity, necessitating the price increase, the Seattle-based company said. The robot’s user experience also has been tailored to businesses.

Amazon is seeking to recoup years of investment in Astro’s development.

Bloomberg first reported that the bot was in the works back in 2018, and the product was once pitched internally as a major initiative.

But Amazon has become famous for killing off once-cherished projects, and Astro will likely need to become a steady seller or risk being discontinued.

It’s been a tumultuous year for Amazon’s devices business, and many top leaders who championed the Astro have left the company.

Amazon recently hired Panos Panay, Microsoft Corp.’s former chief product officer, as its new executive in charge of devices and Alexa.