Amazon announced a bunch of Alexa-enabled panopticon surveillance home tech earlier this week, and it sucked so damn bad. Every single bit of it. All sucky. Suck suck suck.
Upcoming products include a security camera/schoolteacher for your children’s bedroom, “smarter” Alexa systems, some unholy Disney voice assistant alliance, a diet monitor, and perhaps suckiest of all, Astro—a creepy, invasive, ever-watchful iPad with a cup holder welded to its ass.
Marketed as a cutesy home companion that can dance and wink at you, its main purpose is undeniably to “proactively patrol your home, investigate activity, and send you notifications when it detects something unusual,” which are Amazon’s words, not ours. It will use all manner of motion sensors, recorded data, and facial recognition tech to do this, the latter of which has come under increasing fire for algorithmic racial biases, among a host of other issues. It marks one of the most dramatic steps yet in Amazon’s quest to become the sole “caretaker” of your home—and, by extension, all of your precious, precious data.
It’s also a terrible product. How do we know this? Well, Motherboard managed to publish leaked documents mere hours after Astro’s unveiling that detail in-house skepticism and downright loathing of the new robot, citing poor design and shoddy AI. “Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity,” one anonymous source is quoted as saying, adding the $1000 (yeah, $1000) item is “at best, absurdist nonsense and marketing and, at worst, potentially dangerous for anyone who’d actually rely on it for accessibility purposes.”
You can pre-order the thing now, if you’re so inclined. Please don’t.
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