At an auction house near London’s Chelsea Football Club team dressing room, U.S. online retailer Amazon.com Inc is preparing to start selling a home-built robot called “Lara,” based on a smart home platform developed at the University of Westminster.
Amazon, whose self-declared goal is to provide products for anyone regardless of their skill or means of payment, is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in so-called “E2E” (everything2ede) technology projects, which aim to bring the internet of things to more homes and make a broad range of goods – from food items to medical devices – wearable.
But selling kits from a computer game at a fancy auction house will push LARA into a much wider global market, by giving it an emotional hook that technology companies can use to hook customers – a crucial step in luring them away from traditional retailers.
The U.S. firm, which is focused on growing the market for its home-grown products in Britain, will also send one of its senior vice-presidents for research and development to London on Friday to show off how its technology works, two employees said.
The device is the brain behind a virtual smart home home where shoppers can control key parts of the appliances and devices to match their personalities and lifestyle. The self-styled “Lara” is available for pre-order from Amazon and is expected to ship in May.
It is the latest example of how U.S. technology companies have found business, or come up with alternatives to the traditional electronics outlets. Apple Inc has used an online subscription service to sell customers its latest products, while Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy S8 phones are being sold directly by the firm and not only online, as was previously the norm. Twitter Inc is also looking into bringing cheaper advertising to home-grown firms.
Amazon said it was focusing of LARA in the United States because of Britain’s regulatory environment in which it did not have to register itself as a self-employed seller with the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“We have a strategy for future growth, which always includes having a more strategic relationship with our platform,” said Ashish Jha, who is heading up Amazon’s new E2E strategy.