Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is reportedly keen to add robots and a home shopping TV network to a constantly growing list of products and services it hopes to offer.
Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the company’s plans, reported that Amazon’s research and development and computer hardware arm, Lab126, secretly began working on developing a domestic robot a few years back and is now aggressively hiring engineers to help it realize its ambitions — there are currently dozens of job listings for specialist roles on Lab126’s website. If everything goes according to plan, Amazon reportedly hopes to test the robots in employees’ homes by the end of the year and begin shipping them to consumers as early as 2019.
It is still unclear what tasks Amazon’s robot might perform, although some sources believe that it could function as a mobile Alexa that follows customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices. Prototypes of the robot, codenamed Vesta, are believed to have advanced cameras and computer vision software, the sources added, enabling them to navigate around homes in a similar fashion to a self-driving car.
While details of Amazon’s venture remain vague, news that it is working on some form of robot was met with panic by iRobot Corp.’s (IRBT) investors. Shares in the maker of Roomba vacuums fell as much as 8.6% on Monday.
Amazon may also be plotting other ways to get into living rooms. An industry source told TechCrunch that the online retailer has held discussions with Evine Live Inc. (EVLV), an operator of a pay-TV home shopping channel, about acquiring it. Evine shares are up over 54 percent in pre-market trading today.
Evine, the third biggest home shopping channel after QVC and the Home Shopping Network, reportedly broadcasts to 87 million homes across the U.S. Amazon isn’t believed to be the only company interested in acquiring the Nasdaq-listed company, which has a market capitalization of just under $53 million. (See also: Amazon Set to Compete With IBM, Oracle in Blockchain Products.)
When asked to verify its potential plans to launch a robot and acquire Evine, an Amazon spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation." (See also: Amazon Adds International Shopping Feature.)