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Amazon’s New Robot Assistant, Alexa Service Hold Potential for Senior Care

Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is launching a new subscription service, as well as a long rumored home assistant robot, that could further position the e-retailer and tech giant as a player in the senior care space.

The service, Alexa Together, and the robot, Astro, were announced during Amazon’s invite-only fall hardware event on Tuesday.

The robot could be a harbinger of where voice technology is headed, but Astro is not yet widely available. Alexa Together will launch later this year at a price of $19.99 per month, and is an extension of the company’s free Care Hub, which was introduced last year as a way for families to check in on their older relatives, via Echo devices.

New additions to the package include hands-free, 24-7 emergency response; customized alerts; a “circle of support” feature to add more family members to support a loved one; and compatibility with fall detection services – notably, ATS and Vaydar. This essentially turns Echo devices into emergency support devices.

Amazon will phase out Care Hub for Alexa Together by 2022, the Verge reports.

With a $999.99 price tag and availability by invitation only, Astro comes with a slew of features including facial recognition software; the ability to map out the floorplans of different rooms and to obey commands to go to a specific room; track movements during video calls to keep users in frame at all times; and use third-party software to record data such as blood pressure.

Amazon envisions Astro as being another tool for remote monitoring of elderly relatives, thanks to its facial recognition capabilities. It can also be used to program routines and reminders to take medications or check vital signs, even if Astro is not in the same room as the user, The Verge reports.

The robot will be integrated with Alexa Together.

Senior living providers have adopted voice technology like Amazon Echo devices in recent years, with the trend accelerating during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, senior living-focused technology platform K4Connect has worked with Amazon to tailor Echo features for the sector, and played a role in distributing free Echo Show devices to providers in North Carolina.

And senior living providers also see promise in robotic technology to help ease workforce burdens. Companies such as Maplewood Senior Living have deployed Temi robots.

An Amazon robot marks another milestone for this technology, but Astro does have a notable functional limitation: it cannot go up or down stairs. Its facial recognition technology, meanwhile, raises privacy concerns and performed poorly during testing, a source who worked on its development told Vice.

The dual announcements are another indication that a battle for consumer health care dollars among retail giants is forming. Alexa Together and Astro can be seen as competition to Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), which has invested nearly $1 billion building its Best Buy Health platform, which includes the company’s GreatCall technology, mobile phones and portable devices.

In 2019, analysts with Morgan Stanley estimated that Best Buy’s foray into home health could generate $2 billion in revenue by 2025, and between $11 billion and $46 billion in long-term revenue.

Amazon is also betting big on senior care. Its own health care platform, Amazon Care, is available in all 50 states. Amazon Care is part of a coalition of companies called Moving Health Home, aiming to change federal and state home care policy. 

In March, Amazon hired senior living industry veteran Ginna Baik as senior development manager for senior living. She is expected to expand its Alexa Smart Properties business line, intended to deploy Alexa-enabled tech at scale.

The post Amazon’s New Robot Assistant, Alexa Service Hold Potential for Senior Care appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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