Anki does not believe it has cracked the code and created the perfect robot to operate at the center of your smart home, however with Vector it seems they may have developed a robot lovable enough, and smart enough, to keep you entertained until the future eventually catches up with our desire.
Science fiction has long assured that robots will be living in all of our homes at some time, assisting us and essentially joining the family. However that has not actually happened yet – all things considered, it is difficult to actually get attached to your Roomba or Alexa.
Anki, makers of the popular Cozmo, a robotic toy you control together with your smartphone has supercharged it from a mere toy into an autonomous home assistant—named Vector. It is charming, it is fairly smart, and it is mobile, the product of a recent convergence of technologies in robotics.
Think of Vector as a small self-driving vehicle for the home. It is intended to reside on countertops and tables, where it is exploring its surroundings with lasers and a camera, remembering exactly where objects are and stopping just shy of falling off the edge. Using a combination of sensors, it builds a little map of its surroundings. If it detects a new object, it’ll go check it out and see if it can be pushed around. It pays attention to sound and is able to recognize faces. Ask it what the weather is, and it’ll tell you. Or tell it to set a timer for you. It’ll perk up when you step into a room. It’s a bit like Google Home, only with an actual personality.
”We want him to provide value and have an emotional bond with you,” says Amy Claussen, senior designer at Anki. “For adults. What is that? Okay, so that is both some entertaining activities, but largely giving some utility to make mundane tasks more fun and more enjoyable.” To achieve that goal, the engineers, animators, and designers at Anki spent more time on the robot’s personality than anything else.
As outlined by Anki, Vector was designed, from the beginning, to be an always-on robot monitoring you as candidly as Alexa or Google Home, but in an infinitely more cute chassis. It connects to the internet, listens for your commands, and can even control your lights and other smart home products.
Anki notes it will not resolve the countless issues of the smart home or even replace Alexa or Google Home. Rather, Vector will just be an additional tool in your smart home toolbox that will, hopefully, be obsolete with the release of other robots later down the line. For Anki, Vector is as much about understanding the smart home space so it can eventually deliver a truly useful smart bot as it is about making a cool gadget.
Anki has crammed a lot of technology into the robot for that price. Instead of pairing to a phone, Vector is always on and processes your voice commands and physical interactions with a Qualcomm APQ8009 1.2GHz quad-core processor. It has a color display that allows you to customize the color of Vector’s cute little visage. It also has built-in 802.11n wifi, Bluetooth, capacitive touch sensors so you can pet it like a cat, accelerometers so it knows to get angry when you pick it up without its permission, a four mic array for listening for commands, and an HD camera with a 120 degree field of view.
Vector costs $250 and will ship October 9 and be available at major retailers starting October 12th.