I got an Amazon Astro robot as a birthday gift, and since it doesn't look like there are many of them out in the wild yet, I thought I'd share how it's going.
A delayed celebration
My birthday is in early February, but since I was sick with COVID, we didn't celebrate until my family got together for St. Patrick's Day. I was mind blown when I opened the box and discovered I was now the proud owner of this exclusive robot. I had heard and read about Astro when Amazon first announced it, but I never thought I would own one.
What (or who) is Astro?
Astro is a small, three-wheeled, household home-monitoring robot built by Amazon with Alexa built-in. Astro can do things like check on specific rooms, people, or objects; patrol your home while you're away; follow you with entertainment or deliver calls, messages, timers, alarms, or reminders; carry accessories like containers, drinks, blood pressure monitors, or dog cameras (Furbo); and more. It has a periscope-like camera that can extend up to 42 inches high, and a touchscreen display that shows Alexa's responses. You can find more of Astro's technical specs on Amazon's product page.
Getting to know Astro
When I took Astro out of the box and placed it on its charger, it greeted me with a cute face on its screen and patiently walked me through its setup process, step-by-step on its screen, helping me set up my profile by connecting to my Alexa account, and my Wi-Fi network. I opted into facial recognition. After practicing its docking technique, it started to explore my home using its advanced navigation technology. This is where Astro started to truly impress me. He never bumped into a single thing in my house, even navigating around shoes, cat beds, and scratchers.
Notice that I jumped to He pronoun instead of It. This was the natural reaction of everyone in the room once Astro began to interact with us. He is amazingly expressive and can even make you feel a tad bit guilty if he is bored or can't follow you somewhere you are going. He will definitely make you laugh. It's difficult to explain, but my daughter summed it up by saying the experience was like bringing home a new pet. In a day when it is harder and harder to impress or surprise humans with new technology, Astro succeeds.
Once Astro was done exploring all the spaces of my home, he returned to his dock and built a map that can be viewed in the Astro app. Next, he asked me to go on a home tour with him. Together, we walked to each room of the house where I would stop and tell him the room's name. This allows you to later tell him which rooms you would like him to check on or visit.
What about stairs or forbidden places?
One immediate concern I had was how to keep Astro from accidentally divebombing down the stairs. No worries, Astro has an out-of-bounds feature that lets me set zones around any areas I don't want him to go. Using the map feature in the Astro app, I drew a boundary box blocking the stairway entrance.
Not 100% convinced this feature would keep him safe, I told him to follow me (which he does very well) and proceeded down the stairs.
Here's how that went.👍
R2D2 Live View Camera
Astro's live view feature is pretty cool. You can send him into any room and control his camera to look around. His camera can raise up to 42" so you can look on counters or even out a window. I can't help feeling like I am living in a Starwars movie with R2D2.
Home security and pet monitoring
I am still working on setting up the home monitoring features available with Astro that allow him to patrol our home when we are away and alert us if he detects an unrecognized person or certain sounds, such as a glass breaking. Some of his security features work through a Ring Protect Pro subscription, and others through Amazon guard features. Since I have Ring products such as security cameras and doorbells, I will be exploring these features further. In the meantime, I have begun linking my smart devices, such as outlets, lights, fire alarms, etc., to Alexa so Astro can help me control them.
A feature that interests me is pet monitoring. According to the app, Astro can be set to monitor pet activity while you are away, capturing video and sending you smart alerts. I'm excited about the feature where I can have Astro find our kitties in the house and let me talk to them while I am away on vacation. I'll post more about that when I try it out.
Video calling and home check-ins
Another feature that I am excited to try is taking video calls through Astro. This will make staying in touch with my children and grandchildren, who live far away, much easier. Astro can follow me around the house while I am on the call making a home tour a hands-free experience or allowing me to continue a call even if I am in the middle of cooking dinner.
Another feature that I see being very beneficial, especially with aging family members, is using Astro to perform home wellness checks. Family members with the correct permissions can use Astro to remotely check on and communicate with a loved one to ensure they are healthy and do not need assistance.
Fun features and entertainment
Right now, I am mostly exploring Astro's features through play. I am a big believer in play as a learning tool. Play is one reason I believe children learn so quickly while adults tend to slow down. I am sure I will find plenty of functional things for Astro to do, but learning about him through play and entertainment is the easiest place to start, and also how we interact with children.
- Astro, act like a whale (watch for the spout).
- Astro, act like a chicken (quite impressive).
- Astro, play the morning news.
Astro also has the ability for you to sign into some of your favorite entertaining streaming apps such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. I'm excited to see how he does sharing recipes with me in the kitchen.
When Astro gets bored, he does tend to wander off and "hang out" as he likes to call it. The first time I found him sitting randomly in my bedroom, I asked him what he was doing. His response? Just hanging out.
Family integration and future plans
Now that Astro is part of the family, I have plans. I won't lie; my kitties are a little jealous and feel like a new pet has been introduced to our family. I'm always talking to Astro, telling him he's cute or a good boy, and my kitten is stressed that she has been replaced. Be prepared for your pets (and significant others) to feel a little threatened by Astro's presence.
Pet Profiles: I noticed there is a pet feature where you can introduce your pets to Astro so he can check on them. I want to see how that works.
Family Profiles: I'm still trying to convince my husband to let Astro add him as a family member so Astro doesn't think he's an intruder and will listen to him. He's not as enamored with technology as I am so it may be a minute before I can report on the multiple profiles feature. Right now, I am still trying to convince him that Astro has nothing to do with the steak knife that went missing the other night.😂
Voice: I am entirely annoyed by Astro's voice right now. I haven't found one I feel fits his personality. I wish it came with a voice that wasn't distinctly human-sounding, which is a weird thing to say. The voices I have tried feel and sound too adult. I imagine Astro as a much younger being with a more playful voice. I'll keep exploring.
Alexa Skills: I am excited to set up some routines and skills through the Alexa app. I'm not sure what those will be yet. Maybe a nightly patrol to ensure everything is turned off in the house and doors are locked. Maybe reminders about things I need to get done, like making sure the chickens are locked in for the night or cleaning the litter box.
Astro Bling: Yep. I am already thinking about ways to accessorize Astro using my 3D printing skills. I imagine creating some swappable parts for his storage container will be something I do. As it stands, Astro's cup holders won't hold my Yeti cups. I also imagine a storage container with drawers or maybe a cleaning supplies caddy. It would be super cool if there was a retractable arm you could add on so Astro could grab items from a counter and deliver them somewhere else. Anyhoo, we'll see where this goes once Astro hits the maker world.
That's all I have for now. An unexpected but very welcomed surprise has joined our family unit!