GADGETS

Most Disappointing Gadgets of 2021


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Although it wasn’t technically available for purchase in 2021, Amazon revealed it’s small, which scrapped Privacy Astro robot This year, so it still matters. More or less Alexa on wheels with cute eyebrows, Astro gave us an answer to a question we didn’t remember asking: “What if Wall-E was real and evil and knew how to handle the Beatbox?”

At $1,500 – $1,000 for members of Amazon’s First Day Editions program – Astro is billed and advertised as a home helper. And like any good helper, Astro gets down to business on day one by getting to know you, your home, and your family. The robot starts by “recording” the faces and voices of any member of your family who might give it a command, then sets out to draw an impermeable map of your home’s terrain so it can navigate without falling down a flight of stairs.

Astro also comes fully equipped with what’s known as a “Sentry” mode, which enables it to monitor your home for people or events it doesn’t recognize. Have you seen this episode of black mirror Before? If not, that’s okay: it’s happening now, in real time.

For privacy-conscious consumers, Amazon is touting the fact that Astro is “designed to protect your privacy,” noting that the robot’s microphones, cameras and sensors can be disabled manually, and that border areas can be set so that Astro knows where he’s not and isn’t allowed to roam. But the truth is that Astro is just another scary addition to us digital panopticon—An always-on, roving monitor designed to store and analyze as much of your personal data as possible.



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