The online shopping giant is backing Labrador Systems, the maker of a robot cart that can carry your dirty dishes and laundry around for you.
The droid, known as the Labrador Retriever, uses advanced 3D vision to map and navigate your home, in the vein of a robot vacuum. In essence, it comes across as a high-tech food trolley that can self-drive and automatically lift and lower items to you.
You can summon it using your voice through an Alexa-enabled device, like a smart speaker or display, and even pre-set it to bring or collect items at specific times. All told, the Retriever can carry food and laundry baskets weighing up to 25 pounds.
At the recent CES tech event, Labrador Systems showed the bot retrieving drinks from a fridge based on voice commands made through an Amazon Echo Show 10 smart display, which was placed atop the cart. Just don’t expect it to get your dinner out of the oven or pop to the garden to collect your clothes from the line. After all, it’s a self-driving cart, not a humanoid robot with arms and legs.
It’s no coincidence that the robot plays nice with Amazon’s products. The e-commerce titan previously co-led a $3.1 million funding round in the startup alongside iRobot, the maker of the Roomba robot vacuum that Amazon is in the process of acquiring.
It’s easy to see how the cart could slot into Amazon’s consumer robotics roadplan, which already includes its Astro home robot that works as a roaming security guard. Alexa is likely to be the mainframe for Amazon’s robotic helpers, allowing you to control your troop of cleaning, helper and surveillance bots with your voice.
While it sounds like a recipe for idleness, the true purpose of the Labrador Retriever is to assist those living with limited mobility or chronic pain. Still, it will apparently be made available to individuals after it rolls out to care providers later this month. But there’s no word on pricing just yet.
Like a robot vacuum, the cart uses a mix of sensors and algorithms to guide itself around household obstacles like furniture. This includes a dual-layer of downward-facing sensors on all four sides of the bot, additional forward-facing sensors to help it chart its path, and a network of bumpers around the base and upper cabinet for extra detection.
The robot comes in two models, with the high-end Retriever offering a self-adjusting height feature and the ability to automatically retrieve special trays that are included with it. A standard Caddie version, on the other hand, offers full self-driving. Both models can purportedly run for an entire day on a single charge, with four hours required for a full recharge.