Amazon’s hardware R&D teams are keeping busy, as the tech giant is reportedly working on a pair of intriguing new projects out of its secretive Lab126 group in Sunnyvale, Calif.: A high-end smart speaker and an Alexa-powered robot aimed at consumers.
An Alexa robot, seriously? Bloomberg detailed prototypes for a robot that is roughly waist-high, able to be summoned by Alexa voice commands and navigates with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras. Though the robot is not ready for mass production, Bloomberg cautioned, Amazon is pulling engineers off other projects to work on the initiative, a potential sign that momentum is building.
Amazon has a robust robotics division, but it’s primarily focused on increasing efficiency in its warehouses and delivering packages. Earlier this year, Amazon unveiled Scout, a cooler-sized package delivery robot that it is testing in the Seattle area.
A new smart speaker with better audio quality: Amazon’s new Echo device will reportedly have higher audio quality than its existing speakers. It is wider than current Echo speakers to cram in more pieces, per Bloomberg, including at least four tweeters.
Echo devices control roughly two-thirds of the smart speaker this year, per eMarketer, but competitors like Google Home Max, Sonos One and Apple HomePod are chipping away at that lead, primarily due to superior audio quality.
Smart speakers have become the primary audio device in a lot of homes, so it makes sense that Amazon would try to boost the audio quality. Amazon has worked to up the audio quality of its smart speakers over the years, and it has introduced accessories as well, including a subwoofer and a component to connect Echo devices with other speakers and receivers.
What Amazon is saying: Nothing, essentially. The company has not publicly acknowledged either project and declined to comment on the report.