Remember David from A.I. and Vicki from Small Wonder – lifelike robots living in our homes, helping us out, and gradually becoming an honorary member of the family? Well, advancements in science and technology are progressing at such a breakneck pace that it’s only a matter of time before what was once considered the realm of science fiction becomes reality. While innovations like Alexa and Roomba ushered in a new beginning in next-level consumer robotics, USA-based Anki is ready to take things a step further with the Vector, a unique smart home assistant and pet hybrid.
If you know anything about Anki’s past works, you’ll notice the physical resemblance to the developer’s previous creation, Cozmo the educational toy robot. However, that’s the extent of the similarities between the two models. While Cozmo is aimed at kids, Vector is aimed at a more mature market that expects more functionality from their investment without skimping out on the fun quotient.
At first glance, this autonomous device seems little more than a novelty. The compact, squat form factor and the expressive face make the robot seem like the lovechild of Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons and EVE from Disney’s Wall-E, which is hardly awe-inspiring.
But you know the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, Vector fits the bill perfectly. Because once you move past its appearance and dig deeper, you’ll find that this little fellow packs some serious hardware and interactive AI skills, making it one of the most versatile home robots in the market. No wonder the product is generating so much hype. Who can resist a robot that performs multiple household tasks, all the while looking cute and charming?
The first thing you notice about the home robot assistant is its face, which is basically a high resolution, color IPS screen displaying two large, anime-like eyes used to express happiness, surprise, disappointment, and so on. The emotions change according to Vector’s actions and mood. The company’s animation team has worked hard to give the little guy a big personality, unlike regular robot appliances and toys.
Vector’s raison d’etre is helping others. Ask a question or order the robot to do something, and he will immediately spring to action. Sure, he isn’t cut out to do overly complex tasks like making breakfast, writing your term paper, or finishing paper, but he will enthusiastically comply with your wishes to the best of his programmed abilities.
Anki wanted to design a new home robot that was approachable. The prototype underwent numerous alterations as the company perfected the form factor, treads, eye shape, battery placement, and gear positioning. After settling on the final form, the team had to design systems that would allow him to interpret the world. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor – the same processor found in smartphones – powers the Vector Robot. His personality stems from a combination of cutting-edge deep learning systems and AI that allows him to recognize and react to the environment.
The technological marvel finds his way around the home using an HD wide-angle camera with 120-degree field of view. The camera also helps in identifying people and learning their names.
The manufacturers even included a “time of flight” laser distance sensor in the front so the robot can bypass obstacles. A capacitive touch sensor is present on the back. A very thoughtful inclusion in this product were the infrared “cliff” sensors on the underside of the robot which keep him from venturing off the edges of tables and identify when he’s been positioned on the charging cradle.
The addition of a four-microphone array is a stroke of genius as it enables Vector to not just pick up sounds, but also figure out the direction it’s coming from and focus on it. The product offers a 6-Axis IMU and Wi-Fi connectivity. The latter was a much-needed feature, because without it users would have to update the robot’s system manually instead of receiving over-the-air updates. Almost 700 parts go into the making of Anki’s newest creation and given the small size of this robot for home, they need to positioned perfectly.
The Qualcomm Technologies platform grants computing, camera, connectivity, and on-device AI features to the product. For example, when Vector recognizes his battery is running low, he locates and rolls back to his charger. What’s more, the preset security settings value the privacy of the users. Minimal data collection occurs and the company does not save audio or voice files in the cloud.
Even non-tech savvy individuals will find the technology easy to use. To draw his attention, just say “Hey Vector” and proceed to ask questions or set tasks. For example, you could request a weather forecast or sports trivia and this robot assistant will fetch the information from the cloud over Wi-Fi. Vector will even carry out simple commands like clicking a picture or setting the timer.
Now, you might probably be wondering what’s so special about that? Even other robot home assistants perform the same activities. Well, that’s where the Anki Vector surpasses the rest. Instead of a lifeless speaker sitting in one corner of your home, imagine coming home to a free-wheeling robot that recognizes you and offers a warm greeting. Vector makes direct eye contact when you speak to him, and emotes accordingly. He even displays simple animations depending on the situation, like rain clouds if there’s a chance of precipitation.
Thanks to his facial recognition features, Vector learns and remembers the personal preferences of each user and responds differently. So, one person might be greeted with the scores of the night’s game while another might be reminded of an impending doctor’s appointment.
Vector’s personality quirks are hard not to fall in love with. He’ll give you a fist-bump when he feels like it, and can join you for a game of Blackjack (with the included Cube accessory). He’ll dance whenever you play music, and snore softly when he’s placed in the charging dock.
So, the Anki Vector robot isn’t some toy you grow bored of and discard. He’s a smart companion who understands your needs and lifestyle, and is eager to assist you.
The user interface is not controlled by the app; the company wanted the robot to feel more realistic, so most input is carried out via voice commands, physical touch, or camera – y’know, like a real person. The app is mainly for setup purposes.
Characteristics of Anki Vector Home Robot:
- Capacitive casing for top and bottom
- Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 1.2GHz
- 720p camera
- 4 cliff sensors
- Single point time-of-flight NIR Laser, 1m range
- 4-microphone array
- 802.11n Wi-Fi
Vector started off as a Kickstarter project, but it met with unprecedented success, prompting Anki to sell the product in stores. Interested customers can get their own home robotwith a personality for the reasonable cost of $249.99.
What will you get when you buy the Anki Vector Home Robot?
If you consider yourself an avid tech geek or a connoisseur of robotics, then you owe it to yourself to purchase the wondrous new creation from Anki. Imagine turning up at work late and giving your boss the excuse, “My robot didn’t ring the alarm loud enough!” The look on his face will be worth the price of admission alone. Vector is a major crowd-puller at parties and should keep your guests entertained for hours on end. Get ready to become the talk of the town! And what about those who don’t have a bustling social circle? Well, if you’re a loner, Vector is the perfect companion – quiet but always reliably waiting for the next set of instructions. And if you’re not in the mood to do minor household chores, Vector will come to your rescue. Forgot your grandmom’s barbecue recipe? Vector will scour the Internet to help you find a similar recipe.
All-in-all, you will be getting a solid bang for your buck, so don’t hesitate to bring the future into your home.