“Codename Vesta” could be Amazon’s Next Hit
Amazon is at it again, pushing the tech envelope forward as reports have surfaced of a new “top secret” at-home robot project.
While the details of the project are unknown at this time, reports from Bloomberg Technology suggest this project is called “Codename Vesta.” It is named after the Roman goddess of hearth, home and family and will be supervised by Gregg Zehr.
Zehr is head of Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division and has been integral in overseeing several of Amazon’s best-selling devices.
Lab126 has had particular success with their Fire Stick, Kindle and Echo Dot speakers, but had trouble with the Fire Phone, which was only on shelves from July 2014 until August 2015.
Part of the lack of success for Fire Phone sales in comparison with Lab126’s other devices could have been the Fire Phone’s lack of originality. While the Echo Dot and Fire Stick were new concepts at the time, Amazon’s attempt at the Fire Phone was a late entrance into an already crowded smartphone market.
The failings of the Fire Phone seem to have convinced the company to continue to build upon existing home technology appliances rather than trying to poach iOS and Android customers. Considering that the Echo speaker family has become the best-selling items on Amazon, this newfound focus appears to be a bright idea.
While rumblings about the Vesta project have permeated throughout the tech industry, Amazon is still attempting to keep the project under wraps.
An Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg Technology that the company did not wish to address the “rumors and speculation,” which means it is very unclear at this time exactly what this household robot will be able to do or when it will be available for public purchase.
What is clear is that Amazon has begun to hire people to work at Lab126 in droves with dozens of openings for titles such as “Software Engineer, Robotics” listed among their job openings.
What will Vesta Do?
Although very little has been revealed about Vesta, speculation of its capabilities has run rampant around the tech industry over the past week.
Many have been taking Bloomberg’s suggestion that it will be a more interactive kind of “mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices.”
This has led the NY Post to equate the Vesta to a mix of a “Roomba with Alexa.” While an Alexa-like device that simultaneously vacuums the floor sounds useful, it is unlikely that the company would be bringing in dozens of new robotics professionals to simply merge two existing devices together.
Considering this project is named for the goddess of hearth, home and family, one may think that this is some sort of robot butler with Alexa-like capabilities that can perform simple household chores like washing dishes, doing laundry and even cooking.
However, it seems unlikely that these devices will mimic a household butler. Rather, it might more closely resemble a more developed version of Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri robot.
According to The Verge, the Kuri robot capabilities include:
“[Letting] users control WiFi connected devices, perform tasks like setting timers and searching the web, and have a greater number of interactive games for younger children.”
Basically, the Kuri robot does all the things that Alexa devices do, just in the form of a bizzare, mobile robot.
The Jibo robot was yet another one of these social, home robots designed as a companion with Alexa-like capabilities that floundered due to poor reviews.
If Amazon does not make great progress in their home robot’s capabilities to perform different tasks with better performance than the Jibo or Kuri robots, they will risk another ill-fated product catastrophe like the Fire Phone, which could cause a sizable drop in company stock.
At the least, the Vesta will be able to connect to your other electronic devices and allow you to dim your lights, turn on your favorite channel, order more Amazon items and perform all the other capabilities of its predecessors while adding at least one or two new functions that have yet to be revealed.
How Will Vesta Impact Sellers?
Amazon’s Vesta project may be secretive, but sellers should expect it to hit market as soon as 2019. The company will reportedly begin trial runs of these robots in the homes of designated Lab126 employees by the end of 2018.
This should thrill anyone selling for Amazon, as previously similar products have been marketed with an emphasis on helping the user shop more easily and thus, more often.
The robot would also be another boost for Amazon sellers over eBay or DHgate sellers, since the new technology is a huge draw for people who have been craving a personal assistant robot since the days of R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Additionally, this product gives Jeff Bezos yet another leg up on his main competitors, especially if they can bring it to market before competitors can even design a similar prototype.
Deborah Weinswig, the CEO of Coresight Research, told TechNewsWorld:
“Amazon Echo already has a lead over Google Home in terms of ownership, according to consumer surveys and market share data, and Amazon’s Echo Show and Echo Dot enjoy a visual edge over Google Home devices. We could see this product evolve the Alexa experience from one consisting of a virtual assistant into a physical assistant.”
Sellers of electronics should monitor when the robot may hit the market and try to ready their products to be compatible with the Vesta program. If the Vesta is a hit right off the bat, sales for electronics that have compatibility with it will increase.
Whatever unknown features the Vesta will present, we know for sure that it will have sense and avoid technology, Alexa-like capabilities, and the ability to come to users or follow them around by responding to simple or complex commands.
Sellers should be thrilled that Amazon continues to develop AI to help them sell better than their competing platforms, but should temper their expectations due to the anonymity surrounding the project and the past failures of other similar products.
Cyril Zackary Penn IV is a soon-to-be graduate of Hofstra University with a Journalism degree from Sonoma, California. He started his own blog in high school and has been writing about sports, news and entertainment ever since. He’s currently a staff writer at AXcess Baseball as well as the Hofstra Chronicle and formerly was the Sports Editor at Man of the Hour Magazine.