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Is Alexa getting a big brother? Amazon is working on a secret home robot

Amazon is working on a home robot — which really shouldn’t come as a surprise when you think about it. Ever since its push into online book sales when the World Wide Web was young (about the same time Barnes & Noble and Borders were bringing the hurt to small mom-and-pop bookstores) Amazon has blazed paths other companies only glanced at.

The latest? Amazon’s Sunnyvale, California-based Lab126 hardware research and development division is working on a domestic robot project code-named “Vesta,” Bloomberg Technology reported. Lab126 developed the Amazon Echo, Fire TV, Fire Tablets, and other Amazon electronics hardware product.

A quick search of the Lab126 Jobs website shows the division is currently seeking a Robotics Software Engineer, Robotics Software Development Manager, Senior Applied Robotics Scientist, and Robotics Software QA Manager among 10 positions for robotics specialists.

According to “people briefed on the plan,” a tentative timeline includes early robot versions in Lab126 employees’ homes by late 2018, with a possible market launch in 2019.

“Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car,” according to Bloomberg.

A robot could work as a central call-and-message service for and between family members, as well as help kids with homework. With the right links, search techniques, and Alexa Skills, a robot could serve as a rolling assistant that provides step-by-step or background information while family members cook, work on budgets or finances, or plan parties, dates, or vacations.

There may also be special-purpose home robots, including models trained to make wireless connections with all the computing, productivity, entertainment, and smart home electronics in the house and on the property to monitor power status or ward off or block invasion threats. It could also make sure all devices have updated software and drivers, and that important data is backed up to the cloud.

Internet connectivity as an enabling infrastructure has been at the root of all successful Amazon ventures. Low-cost Kindle electronic book readers, Amazon Echo counter-top voice assistants, and Amazon Fire TV smart television dongles all leveraged internet access. The Amazon Fire Phone was a notable exception. It failed quickly.

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