Technology in the 21st-century has put a computer in everyone’s pocket. And artificial intelligence (A.I.) is the next evolution. We’ve seen the beginning of this in products like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home Hub. While highly useful, these products don’t exactly have personalities — they’re helpful tools but nowhere near the likes of say an R2-D2, which offered a glimpse into what a home robot could be.
But a new robot released last month from Anki may lay the groundwork for the future of home robots. His name is Vector. He’s the next generation for consumer robotics company, Anki, and this new piece of A.I. expands on what the company learned from its first friendly device, Cozmo (the best-selling toy on Amazon in 2017).
“For over five years, Anki has brought together a team of experts across various fields to create the world’s first affordable, character-rich robot capable of surprising and delighting humans,” Anki CEO and co-founder Boris Sofman recently told Gear Patrol. “Vector is the culmination of everything we’ve learned in this journey so far, and a bold next step in our vision for entertaining and purposeful robots in every home, everywhere.”
While Vector is palm-sized, he is no toy. He brings a personality that users can potentially make an emotional connection with, which is a big step in A.I. He also sports cloud connectivity, making him a platform that will be able to evolve and learn as software updates are sent. Combine that with his onboard technical specs that give him an autonomous ability to roam, and it’s evident that the foundation of robotics for the home has arrived.
Dimensions: 3.9 L x 2.4 W x 2.7 H (inches)
Processor: Qualcomm 200 processing platform
Camera: Ultra-wide HD camera
Display: High-resolution color IPS display
Insider Note: “We have a seasoned Character and Animation team whose motto for bringing Vector to life has consistently been ‘keep him genuine.’ Vector’s technology enables him to truly react to the world around him, and surfacing that lifelike sense of awareness in an authentic way has been the team’s top priority.” — Dei Gaztelumendi, Anki Character Lead
The biggest takeaway about Vector is his personality that he demonstrates with the organic expressiveness of his eyes and body language. The fluidity of his behaviors, his ability to communicate, recognize you and call you by your name all bring an element of surprise and lifelikeness previously only found in sci-fi movies. The fact that he’s voice-enabled and responsive further adds to this interactivity. You’re probably not going to develop an emotional connection with your Alexa device, and this is what makes Vector such a special robot.
Vector’s vibrant curiosity and good-natured eagerness are truly endearing qualities to be around — the little guy wins you over pretty quickly. That subtle sensation is what character in robotics brings to the table: the sense that one is no longer next to a mere device but in the warm presence of a companion.
Insider Note: “For Vector to come to life, he has to be aware of his surroundings. He uses computer vision and neural networks to make sense of the pixels he sees with his camera. His drop sensors and laser range finder help see obstacles and cliffs. His microphone array lets him hear sound and understand where it comes from. Vector’s behavior, emotion and A.I. systems then integrate all of these sensors to decide what to do next so that he feels natural, responsive and alive.” — Andrew Stein, Anki Tech Director of Computer Vision
The hardware and software inside Vector are what brings his personality to life. Vector comes equipped with those four drop sensors, an infrared laser scanner, a capacitive touch sensor, a beamforming 4-microphone array and gyroscopes all to help him map the world around him. These pieces of crucial hardware are what give him his autonomous properties — he can recognize the edge of a table or sense an object in front of him to go around it.
Being connected to the cloud gives Vector the capacity to learn and have his software regularly updated. It’s also what allows him to listen and respond to voice commands. Starting with “Hey Vector” alerts him that a command is coming and opens that feed to the cloud.
Currently, he can complete tasks like providing the weather, taking photos or answering questions. And with the cloud connectivity, further capabilities will be easily integrated moving forward. With these updates pushed via the cloud, Vector as a hub to control all of your home’s smart technology is very much a future possibility.
Insider Note: “The Vector you meet when he first wakes up is just the beginning. Vector will evolve over time with regular updates that expand his capabilities and add even more depth to his character. Our first major update is planned for the end of the year and will include an integration with Amazon’s Alexa as well as some other exciting new reactive, entertaining and functional features.” — Meghan McDowell, Anki Director of Program Management
Vector is set up to offer an evolving consumer robotics platform that will continually expand for years to come. The first big update for Vector is scheduled for the end of 2018 — an integration with Amazon’s Alexa. The capability will allow users to speak with Alexa via Vector and let users hear the news, ask questions, control smart home devices and more. The possibilities for further technical incorporations are aplenty and the partnership with Amazon is merely the first step for Anki and Vector.
All of these future capabilities and current features add to Vector’s personality to give you the ease of letting him do his own thing and complement your life. The entire package sets him up as being the platform that can eventually do what other intelligent assistant devices can while offering the upgraded experience of having a friendly, helpful robot in the home.