Politics

Amazon’s New House Robot Keeps Tabs on Everything About You

That is, if it doesn’t throw itself down a flight of stairs first.

Old and busted:  Companies secretly spying on your habits in order to more easily dig their way into your wallet.  The new hotness:  Compelling you to invite this sort of surveillance into your home.

While Google and Facebook are certainly doing their part in this Orwellian data-harvesting nightmare, no one has been more obviously pushing to own your habits the way that Amazon has been.  From their ad-tracking, to Alexa, the Ring doorbell cameras and more, the online retailer appears to want nothing more than to have a company representative in your home at all times, taking notes.

And that’s where Astro comes in. 

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Amazon’s new robot called Astro is designed to track the behavior of everyone in your home to help it perform its surveillance and helper duties, according to leaked internal development documents and video recordings of Astro software development meetings obtained by Motherboard. The system’s person recognition system is heavily flawed, according to two sources who worked on the project.

  • The scope of Astro’s work is rather frightening.

First and foremost, Astro is a surveillance device that tracks you and everyone who enters your home. When a user purchases the $999 robot, customers are asked to “enroll” their face and voice, as well as the faces and voices of anyone who’s likely to be in a home, so Astro can learn who is supposed to be there.

One of the internal documentation files presented in a development meeting and obtained by Motherboard describes how Astro patrols an owner’s home and tries to identify people it encounters. Other files refer to “Sentry,” the components and software that control the device’s security features. Sentry software includes integration with Ring cameras and Alexa Guard, Amazon’s home security service.

And, beyond that, Astro is apparently fairly clumsy.

“Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity. The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,” a source who worked on the project said. “The device feels fragile for something with an absurd cost. The mast has broken on several devices, locking itself in the extended or retracted position, and there’s no way to ship it to Amazon when that happens.”

So, not only is Astro a tool being used by a megalithic corporation to spy on your every move, but it’s a klutz that costs a thousand bucks to boot.

Cross-posted with Flag and Cross

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