Amazon announces Astro robot as part of its new products showcase

Astro learns your habits so it will park itself near where you spend most time.
The robot learns your habits so it will park itself near where you spend most time. Photo credit: Supplied

Household robots have long been a staple of science fiction, from Asimov to The Jetsons - and Amazon seems to have taken a lesson from the latter with its latest invention.

The online shopping giant today announced a range of new products, including a small robot called Astro, the same name as the dog in the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

As well as Astro, the company also revealed a new Echo Home device, an expansion of its Halo health products line-up and Amazon Glow, a new interactive device for use by children on video calls.

Amazon Glow
Photo credit: Supplied

But it's the home robot that seems destined to grab the most headlines, as those historical versions of what the future looks like take a step closer, even if we still don't have flying cars yet.

Astro has digital eyes on a rotating screen and is mounted on large wheels to allow it to move freely around the house, essentially an Echo Show that moves by itself.

It supports Visual ID so will be able to recognise different members of the household, meaning you can put something in Astro's cargo holder to deliver to a specific person and it will be able to do so.

Astro also learns habits so will park itself where you spend most of your time as well as being a virtual companion, following you around the house playing music while you do the vacuuming.

And while that might sound like a bit of fun, there is a more serious side to the robot's functionality.

It can integrate with Ring's security alarm system and allow you to remotely monitor your house, including seeing over objects blocking Astro thanks to its extendable periscope camera. The company also highlighted its potential use in keeping an eye on elderly relatives.

The Astro has Alexa Guard integration, allowing it to alert you to sounds of broken windows or other alarms, too. 

The Verge reported beta testers found Amazon Astro's personality made it feel more like a part of their home than a smart speaker or other gadget, so it was more like a pet than a robot.

Astro is initially being released on a limited, invite-only system costing US$999 before a general launch.

The Glow, meanwhile, is designed to transform how younger children connect with remote loved ones by allowing dual participation in activities.

On video calls the children see the other person on a dedicated display, while a 19-inch touch-sensitive projected space in front of the Glow allows for interactive opportunities like playing games together.