Amazon (AMZN -0.57%) recently announced a new round of consumer products and among them was a $999 robotic dog, among several other interesting devices. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Sept. 30, Fool.com contributors Brian Withers and Matt Frankel, CFP, discuss what role -- if any -- robotics could play in Amazon's growth.
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Brian Withers: Amazon had an interesting day yesterday, they made some announcements and I would say they are officially in the robotics business. They're kicking it off with a robot dog named what else but Astro, this thing is so cute. They have an indoor Ring camera that flies as a drone around the house, their Echo Show 15. It's basically the computer in the kitchen that tracks all of the family activities, will be interesting to see whether this version actually takes off.
Amazon Glow, a visual projection device that allows kids to interact in a virtual reality environment, and a souped-up Alexa, branded Alexa Together for focused on helping aged loved ones live independently by keeping in touch with family. They made a fitness band update as well. For me, the robot dog stole the show. It's 999 bucks, so it ain't cheap, and think of it as an Alexa on wheels with a Ring camera that you can also access when you're not at home. Reminders, music, way to hold items for delivery. It can follow you around.
Just a fun little thing, and I think the possibilities here are just getting started. But the whole idea, it's pretty clear to me that these announcements are focused on building an ecosystem around its Ring devices and security services so that they can get a monthly subscription fee, and beware these vices will learn and get smarter over time too.
Matt Frankel: For a $999 dog robot, you could buy a lot of Kindles, Echos and Ring devices.
Frankel: Do you see the robotic as really a big seller or just a novelty product to attract attention?
Withers: I think it has a half chance of becoming something actually worthwhile. If you remember back to the first iPhone, I wanted to say it was $699 or $799. It was outrageously priced at the time. If you had one today, nobody would buy it. Because of the first of its kind, it made a big splash, but there really wasn't a ton of stuff it did. It only had the Apple (AAPL -1.36%) apps on it, and it was super, super slow.
It's likely the company has low expectations for Astro. But once these get into consumer hands, to me, the real work begins on making software updates to make Astro become more usable, and I imagine over time the price will come down too, which will make it more interesting for more households.
Frankel: I'm actually surprised they priced at that high because Amazon usually willing to take a loss on hardware to get into it as many houses as possible.
Withers: They could entirely still be taking a loss on this.