The most disappointing gadgets of 2021


Screenshot: Amazon

While it wasn’t technically available to buy in 2021, Amazon revealed its minor, privacy outlaw robot astro this year, so it still counts. More or less an Alexa on wheels with cute eyebrows, Astro presented us with an answer to a question we didn’t remember: “What if Wall-E was real, evil and knew how to beatbox?”

Priced at $1,500 — $1,000 for members of Amazon’s Day 1 Editions program — Astro is billed and advertised as a household helper. And like any good assistant, Astro gets to work on the first day by getting to know you, your home and your family. The robot starts by “registering” the faces and voices of every member of your household who might give it a command, then sets out to loosely map the grounds of your house so it can run around without to fall down a flight of stairs.

Astro is also fully equipped with the so-called “Sentry” mode, which allows it to patrol your home looking for people or events it doesn’t recognize. Have you seen this episode of Black Mirror yet? If not, that’s okay: it’s happening now, in real time.

For privacy-conscious consumers, Amazon touts the fact that Astro is “designed to protect your privacy,” noting that the robot’s microphones, cameras, and sensors can be manually disabled, and boundary zones can be set so Astro knows where it isn’t. allowed to roam. But the reality is that Astro is just another scary addition to our digital panopticon-an always-on, always-roaming surveillance device designed to remember and analyze as much of your personal data as possible.


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