Amazon has a top-secret project codenamed “Vesta” that is said to be focused on building robots for the home. The division responsible for the project is also the one who worked on the Echo speakers, Fire TV set-top-boxes, Fire tablets and even the short-lived Fire Phone. 

Bloomberg learned from people familiar with the cloud computing giant’s plans Monday that Amazon is secretly betting big on robotics. The company is said to have this project that is codenamed after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family and is overseen by Gregg Zehr. 

Zehr is the man running the e-commerce company’s Lab126 hardware research and development unit that’s based in Sunnyvale, California. It appears Amazon wants more people to join Zehr’s team as it is aggressively ramping up hiring. The Lab 126 Jobs page currently has numerous listings for software engineers who specialize in robotics and principle sensors engineers.

Sources disclosed that Amazon is looking to begin testing its robots by the end of this year. Testing means seeding the prototypes in the homes of the company’s employees. Once this phase is done, Amazon could move forward with commercially launching the robots in 2019. The timeline is subject to change though, so the domestic robots could be launched to the public a little later than 2019. 

It’s not clear what kind of home robots Amazon is believed to be working on, but sources said they will be different from the ones designed by Amazon’s subsidiary in Massachusetts and Germany, called Amazon Robotics. The Vesta robot is believed to be a mobile robot that’s powered by Alexa. It could be the moving counterpart of the Echo devices, but it’s unlikely to sport the same design and appearance as the Echo speakers. 

Sources shared the prototypes have advanced cameras and computer vision software. They are also said to be capable of moving around the premises of a home through a technology that’s likened to the one powering self-driving cars. But the robot’s functions are still unknown. 

An Amazon spokesperson was reached for comment, but he simply stated that the e-commerce giant does not address “rumors and speculation.” However, if the leaked information turns out to be true, Amazon could be the latest company to show interest in the robotic category. 

Early this year, LG Electronics and Sony Corp. showcased their new robotic inventions at CES 2018. LG introduced three new additions to its CLOi robot brand: Serving Robot, Porter Robot and Shopping Cart Robot. The first two are intended for use at hotels and airports, while the third robot is designed to help customers at premium supermarkets. 

On the other hand, Sony showed off a new version of its robotic dog called Aibo. The animal robot is intended to be a toy, pet and robot in one. It even has artificial intelligence that enables it to build up a character through its different interactions with people. When Sony unveiled its new robot dog, it promised to bring more functionality to it in the future. 

At present, the consumer robot market is worth $5.4 billion. By 2023, its worth is expected to jump to $15 million, according to an estimate from Research and Markets. 

Amazon Amazon is reportedly building home robots. Photo: Reuters/Abhishek N. Cinnappa