High Tech

Amazon Astro Review: An Echo of the Future – Video

Speaker 1: I’ve spent over two weeks with Amazon Astro to find out if I can recommend it. I can’t yet. And here’s why Astro is a $1,000 home robot. That’s only from Amazon right now. If and when this thing gets a full launch, that price will jump up to $1,500. We’re gonna cover the basics of what Astro is. [00:00:30] Then we’re gonna put it to the test. How good of a home security device is it? What about the convenience? It adds. Is it good at playing with your kids? And how does it stand up to a plain old echo show? N let’s get right to it.

Speaker 1: Astro does a lot of stuff. You can play music while it follows you around the house. You can send it into another room to deliver a drink or snacks. You can watch shows on its screen. You can monitor the house while you’re away. And plenty more [00:01:00] Astro basically has the same exact 10.1 inch screen as an echo show 10, but a different speaker array, including 2 55 millimeter, full range speakers and a passive base radiator. What really sets it apart though, is its mobility. Long story short, Amazon took navigation technology that robot vacuums have been using for years and it applied it for a different purpose. Astro doesn’t have to cover every inch of your floor. It just has to navigate quickly and efficiently from one room to another, without knocking into things, falling downstairs [00:01:30] or knocking over that pile of blocks that your kids have been spending the last 20 minutes building. In addition to the navigation tech Astro also boasts three cameras, one, five megapixel camera on the bezzle of the screen. And two cameras on this Periscope, a five megapixel and a 12 megapixel camera, which you can use for everything from taking selfies. Although is it really a selfie if you’re taking it Astro to monitoring your house while you’re away? This little robot seems pretty cool in theory, right? Well, before you go hitting that pre-order button, let’s see it [00:02:00] in action.

Speaker 1: Once we started setting Astro up, we ran into our first problem. Basically Astro failed twice to map the ground floor of the CNET smart home. So I hopped on a call with an Amazon rep and talked about possible explanations. What we concluded was that either the floors were too shiny or the windows were too bright or the exposed staircase with its railing was messing with how Astro set up room boundaries. So we closed the shades, covered the [00:02:30] exposed staircase with cardboard and tried again, this time Astro successfully mapped the floor. The takeaway, this is still very much a work in progress. Yes, Astro is a finished piece of hardware, but the updates that are gonna be rolling out pro of Lee Fort are going to make it better able to navigate architecturally diverse homes. And when we did remove the cardboard from the staircase, Astro was able to navigate without further problems. After that initial mapping, we walked around the house with Astro telling it which rooms were, which, [00:03:00] which gave us this nice little map in the Astro app where we could adjust room boundaries. As we saw fit all in all aside from the initial problems with mapping, the space setup was fairly quick and easy,

Speaker 1: Okay, but you don’t just want a robot to zoom around your house for no reason, it’s gotta actually do something. And Astro’s clearest justification. That seems to me is its home security monitoring. If you’ve got a ring protect pro plan, Astro can patrol your house while you’re away sending you notifications [00:03:30] and checking on unusual sounds and even emitting an alarm. If you tell it to do so, you can also manually take over Astro’s eyes and ears to drive outta your house while you’re away checking that nothing is awry. The real question is how well do these features actually work? Well if you thought the setup for the mapping was bad, just wait until you see what we had to do for home security. We spent a couple of hours trying to get Astro to connect with ring before yet, again, having to get on the phone with Amazon to troubleshoot. Oh, turns out all we had to do was delete our existing [00:04:00] ring cameras and unpair all of our other Alexa compatible devices to make it work. No problem. Right, right.

Speaker 1: Okay. Look, I am frustrated that I’m gonna have to spend a few hours at least rebuilding our Amazon powered ecosystem here at the smart home. But this thing still is the, just a work in progress. And Amazon did tell me that they are working on a fix to this problem right now, once the ring integration was finally working though, we decided to put it to the test [00:04:30] by staging a break in, essentially, we’re gonna see if Chris can enter the house through the exercise room, make it to the master bedroom, to steal a rock that definitely probably has a G out inside and then get back out the door before Astro hears and confronts him during the first test Chris breaks in and despite being very loud, Astro doesn’t move. So I realized that despite ring, protect pro being active and Astro being harmed, you also have to have guard plus set up separately, which is its own [00:05:00] feature on the Amazon voice assistant app.

Speaker 1: Okay. So we reset. Everything is ready. And Chris enters grabs the rock and Astro stays put the whole time. Once again, I double check with Amazon and everything is set up properly. It just didn’t hear Chris at all. I wanted to give Astro affair shake. So I set Astro to put patrol. You can only have it patrol at most once per hour. So it’s fairly unlikely that Astro would be patrolling during a breakin, but, uh, it turns out if it is, [00:05:30] it actually responds and catches Chris pretty well. So just make sure that you ask your Burg to schedule their breakin accordingly. Since Astro isn’t a good listener. We set up an entry sensor with our ring alarm pro system on the, or Chris will be entering. Chris comes in and sets off the alarm and Astro goes rolling the opposite direction. Okay, we’re calling it.

Speaker 1: Honestly. I’m really underwhelmed at how Astro performs as a home security robot. Really the big problem is that you have three apps [00:06:00] that you’re having to navigate to make this thing work. You have the Astro app, the Alexa app and the ring app. And it’s unclear how they interface and how to make the whole system work together. Well now I do like being able to remotely check in on my house, but that doesn’t really deter burglars and Astro can’t reliably respond to sounds in the house either when it comes to home security, reliability is kind of the name of the game. Another much touted feature Astro boast is its ability to run basic errands for you, finding people [00:06:30] and making deliveries. And it can definitely do that one the way is clear, but we wanted to answer two questions. Number one, can it find people around the house and number two, can it make deliveries in a house that’s a little bit messier for our first test. We wanna see if Astro can find Andrew who’s hiding somewhere around the house faster than I can find him using Astro’s manual navigation. I’ll go first. So I’m gonna start by just heading to the kitchen, I guess. Let’s see.

Speaker 1: [00:07:00] Let’s see if I go See if I go this way. So Andrew, over here, he is not behind the counters. What I can see. Let’s maybe head to the D net, [00:07:30] Uh, seeing him in here.

Speaker 2: Oh,

Speaker 1: Can I turn all right. Let’s let’s head back. Maybe he’s in the bathroom. Just gonna take a quick peek in there. It’s honestly faster for me to navigate just by telling which room Astro should go [00:08:00] to than it is for me to try to actually manually navigate around. Um, And so in that way, Astro’s navigation just on its own is pretty efficient. Um, what I would guess is that it’s not as fast as I will be at kind of looking around in that, you know, seeing if I actually see Andrew around, all right, he’s not in the exercise room. So let’s head on back. Just [00:08:30] go back straight to the bathroom. Maybe I’ll see him all the way in the bedroom. Let’s see. I found him he’s in the bathtub. All right, There we are. Okay. Now that I found Andrew in about two and a half minutes, let’s see how Astro does

Speaker 3: Astro go find Andrew

Speaker 1: [00:09:00] It’s driving down the hallway, stopping in the kitchen and right off the bat, you can see it’s taking a similar route to the one I took, which makes sense. Given the shape of the house, it’s just moving sequentially. Okay. It’s looking around, which you’ll notice here. Astro does a lot, like I guess before Astro moves from room to room, just as quickly on its own as I did when I was controlling it, but it takes a long time to swivel around and scan the whole room for Andrew. Whereas I, a human can tell at a glance whether anyone [00:09:30] is there, even if I can’t see every single corner of the room. In other words, inference doesn’t seem to be Astro’s strongest feature. All right, I’m gonna fast forward here and see when it finally finds Andrew hits the living room and the master bedroom. And then there you go. It finds Andrew at about four and a half minutes. It took merely twice as long, but Astro did accomplish the task for our second test. We decided to just let Andrew stay in the bathtub, cuz mean he needs it. And we wanted to see if Astro could deliver a drink to him. [00:10:00] So let’s give it a shot. We’ll see how Astro deals with a clean house. First Astro bring a drink to Andrew and the master bathroom.

Speaker 1: Okay. Once I finally get the can into the cup holder, I can wait for Astro to process and it gets going. So it’s navigating through a clean house here. We left the door into the bedroom open. So it would have a very easy route. Straight back to the master bedroom. It’s getting [00:10:30] around corners really easily. You see it going through these nice wide alleys And it makes it into the master bathroom where it finds Andrew.

Speaker 2: Hi.

Speaker 4: Yes. You confused

Speaker 5: By not knowing how to get close from me. There you go.

Speaker 1: But houses aren’t always that tidy, especially if you have kids or you like to live in squalor like Andrew does. So we’re [00:11:00] gonna shut a door along the main route to the master bathroom and leave out some trash on the floor. Okay. So Astro is off. It is going in that same route and it’s expecting that bedroom door to be open. Doesn’t see that it’s closed yet, but okay. It hits it. It reroutes right? A way it’s turning. It doesn’t seem phased. All right. It does seem to be slowing down here. We’ll see if it can make it past these chairs. All right. It does. It makes, it goes around. It runs right over that sweatshirt. No [00:11:30] problem. It’s going past that chip bag across another shirt here, Astro really doesn’t have a problem running over things that are less than like half an tall. It’s going through the bedroom. And it seems like it’s just trucking straight onto Andrew at this point. Oh, there’s a broom. Okay. It does make it past the broom without tipping it over. And there it is for Andrew. Nice job Astro.

Speaker 6: Hi, you made it to be so fast. Don’t get confused now. Hi. [00:12:00] Okay. <laugh> all right. Delivery completed, but I’m unable to turn around. Okay. This is, but Astro to reach over there. If I was actually in a bath, I would be

Speaker 1: Upset. Okay. Now we’re gonna really throw some curve balls in there. Okay. Let’s see. Astro. It always takes a long time to process my request. All right, it’s getting going and [00:12:30] it’s moving this direction.

Speaker 1: Okay. It sees some shoes that were left by the door. It’s really having a little bit of a struggle there, but it does make it past them. Now there’s a cord that we left out here, you know, just like vacuum cords, any other cords that we would have around. And the first two wheels seem to get across the cord really easily. But that back wheel, which is a lot smaller, even the front two wheels seems to catch that cord, but it doesn’t seem slowed down at this point or not too much, at least. [00:13:00] All right. We’ve got that chair that we moved and Astro seems to have actually navigated past the chair without a problem. But now we have these blocks. And honestly, I was not expecting these blocks to pose very much of a problem for Astro, but it really is struggling here. Can it make it past the blocks?

Speaker 1: I don’t know. It’s backing up and you see Astro actually do this. Oh my goodness. It just tried to go over the blocks and it is, I think it’s stuck. It is. It is. In fact stuck. There you [00:13:30] go. The blocks actually, or the one thing that did not expect to stop Astro or the blocks and that’s what did it, and now it’s trying to go back to me to give me the drink, what you can do. All right, we’re gonna give this another shot and what I’m actually gonna do. We’re not gonna change anything. We’re actually just gonna push those blocks back a, a teeny bit. But mainly we wanna see if Astro actually learns and adapts from its experience that it just has. So let’s see it’s going off and it runs into these [00:14:00] shoes again. But this time it actually does navigate past them a little bit faster than last time.

Speaker 1: I’m not expecting it to be able to get past this cord again, because it’s not like it can learn how to make its back wheel a little bit bigger. So it is caught on the cord again. But again, it doesn’t seem it’s slowing it down too much. Well, actually I, I take that back. It looks like maybe it is okay. It’s going back to the door that it, nose is closed. And now it’s just dragging the whole cord behind it. [00:14:30] If this were attached to a vacuum, the vacuum would be on the floor at this point. And Astros just to totally, totally tangled up at this point. Okay. But it actually gets free of the cord. It gets free of the cord. It gets past the blocks easily. We put a little poop here. It ran over the poop. Okay. Now it’s just running into a box. There’s the box. No problem. All right. And it it’s speeding. Now. Astro is confident. It’s in that home stretch. It makes it past the pillow. Ooh, there’s a sea stand here. We use those to hold lights for the [00:15:00] camera equipment here and it makes it past it. Okay. There’s the broom. And it squeezes between the broom and the door frame and it makes it to Andrew.

Speaker 6: All right, Don’t mess this up. Now I’ll ride with my item. Hurry,

Speaker 1: Astro. Isn’t just a delivery robot. It’s got real personality. And the developers have told me that they wanted to emulate more of a pet like persona with this device. [00:15:30] So some office mates and I brought our kids into the smart home to see how they liked playing with Astro

Speaker 7: Astro. Do the robot As [00:16:00] Astro Raise Parascope. What is that? Daddy? That’s a camera. Is it camera? That’s [00:16:30] You your manner Astra act a monkey. [00:17:00] I sent thought as was good, but bad, good and bad. At the same time. What I like about Astro is the dances he can do. ASCO can also deliver drinks to you. He can make you laugh. What I liked about Astro, that he was very funny. And if he said it follow [00:17:30] me, he would just kind of follow you around as, and not a good listener. Sometimes he does crazy things. When I said, act like a tiger. He just said tiger. Added to the shopping.

Speaker 1: Obviously Astro is going to get your kids attention and probably their affection too. But I did see over time, some drop off in interest with my kids. And I think that part of it is because this has a lot [00:18:00] of the novelty features that you saw in voice assistance. In the early days, I happened to get a pet snail for my kids at about the same time as I got Astro and the snail who we named proto of course, honestly proved a lot more entertaining in the long run to them.

Speaker 1: Now let’s set aside all that headline grabbing stuff and take a look at how Astros stacks up to an Amazon echo show smart display. After all it’s got the screen, the speaker and the voice assistant at a set, a wheels to that. And suddenly you’ve [00:18:30] got music playing right next to you. Even when you’re doing tours all through the house, since Astro is made by Amazon, it pretty much works with what you’d expect it to work with. You can control compatible smart home devices, call it into a room with an echo speaker. And it works with ring too. Just not all that. Well, as we’ve seen now, this thing has Amazon’s voices onboard. So you can listen to music or play TV shows on it, but it really isn’t as good as Amazon’s smart speakers at listening for wakeboards. Amazon says, this is mainly due [00:19:00] to the changing acoustics as this thing drives around your house.

Speaker 1: So it’s not great now, but I would hope that it’ll get better over time. That said, sound quality is one of the place is Astro really shined, even compared to the already impressive echo show 10, I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks now how to review a robot. It’s not like there’s that much to compare it to. And what makes it harder is that Astro doesn’t really have a singular selling point to it. It’s just sort of a generalist and telling you how good a generalist is [00:19:30] kind of tough, but this isn’t just a me problem. It’s a problem for Astro too. Even if Amazon polishes up all the rough edges, and right now, there are still a lot of rough edges. We don’t normally buy products for our houses that do a bunch of stuff, just, okay, no, we get what we need.

Speaker 1: And we spend what we have do to get it Astro. Isn’t like that. This is a luxury item and people with a lot of money, maybe too much money will buy this just for the novelty. The fact that this is a robot is the use [00:20:00] case. What’s more Astro is yet another device smuggling cameras into our homes, normalizing life on camera at all times. And that’s a scary trend, but pretty much all of Astro’s process happens on device. And even the map on your app is a pretty stripped down version of what Astro’s using to navigate. So those are good steps. Amazon is taking to protect privacy. So listen, Astro, isn’t a privacy disaster, but it’s also not a privacy neutral device. It’s definitely sliding us toward a worse [00:20:30] future, but hasn’t created a black mirror type dystopia yet what most people will care more about is the fact that Astro is a solution and search of a problem.

Speaker 1: And honestly, it’s not even that strong of a solution, especially given its subpar security performance. It’s cool undeniably, and I’m excited to see what home robots look like in the near future. Astro really does feel like a step forward in all sorts of ways, not least of which is it’s actually being used in people’s houses, but for [00:21:00] now Astro remains an interesting device with a lot of promise, but too little utility to really be worth that price tag. Thanks for watching. If you enjoyed the video, make sure to like and subscribe for more. If you’re interested in buying Astro or wanna read our review on it, you can check out the links below. And if you wanna see our video that shows you everything Astro can do. You can click on this window right here. Thanks for watching.

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