Drones flying over your roof, outdoor cameras that monitor for possible trespassers, and cute robots patrolling indoors are all part of Amazon’s vision for the future of home security.
The company demonstrated an autonomous, 20-pound dog-like robot named Astro with large, cartoon-y eyes on its tablet face and a cup holder during an invite-only press conference on Tuesday. As it zooms from room to room, capturing live video and learning your habits, the robot — which looks a lot like an Alexa on wheels — uses voice-recognition software, cameras, artificial intelligence, mapping technology, and voice- and face-recognition sensors.
Amazon also announced a subscription service for Ring cameras called Virtual Security Guard. Ring, the smart doorbell and camera company it bought for $1 billion in 2018, will analyze a live feed from its outdoor cameras with third-party professional monitoring companies like Rapid Response. Agents can communicate with visitors using the camera’s two-way talk feature, as well as activate the camera’s siren or dispatch emergency services as needed. (Ring already sells a $250 drone with an attached camera that can fly around your house and stream video to your smartphone.)
These products hold the promise of capturing a piece of the lucrative home security market while also luring customers deeper into Amazon’s household product ecosystem. Over the years, other tech companies have entered the market, including Google, which has a Nest Aware video recording system and a Nest smart doorbell. Similar products are available from Logitech, Arlo, and Netamo.
However, Amazon’s decision to expand its product offerings in this category comes at a time when the tech industry’s biggest players are under fire for their power and data privacy practices.
And Amazon’s latest security products, which have the potential to increase surveillance in and around our homes, may put to the test how far companies can push consumers’ comfort levels with intrusive technology.
“Tech companies once promised a future like Star Trek, but Amazon is trying to sell us RoboCops,” said Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and a fellow at the New York University School of Law. “And while these products promise safety, they’re really a threat. These sensors would give us a disturbing new reality where it’s impossible to escape the tech giant’s roving drones within our own home.”
It appears to be a risky move for Amazon, whose size and power have drawn regulatory scrutiny from around the world. With its smart home devices, Amazon has previously sparked privacy concerns. According to a Bloomberg report from 2019, Amazon used a global team to transcribe Alexa’s voice commands on Echo devices captured after the wake word was detected, in order to improve Alexa’s grasp of human speech.