Anki has a new robot going by the name of Vector. Pushing Cozmo to one side, this follow-up robot is smarter, more intelligent, and comes with a bigger personality.
Vector might look like Cozmo, but there are some significant updates and changes. Vector is a small tracked robot with a lift on the front. He’s equipped with some sensory hardware so he can interact with the environment, including a laser scanner and camera.
Vector also brings with it voice control, responding to the command word “hey Vector”, so you’re not always dependent on a smartphone to control it. The idea is that Vector, once set up, will become an autonomous robot, exploring, finding things and wanting to interact with you – a bit like your dog, but without the mess.
The reference to the dog isn’t just a lazy example, because Vector has been animated by the team at Anki, drawing on Hollywood movie experience to bring Vector to life. It’s uncanny, but it really works.
Vector rarely keeps still, with small movements of the head and tracks, including the occasional and unprompted exploration, so it can built a map of its area, move around freely and see what’s going on.
It’s smart enough to see an object and stop, or an edge and stop, with funny reactions to things. Vector won’t roll off the edge of the table, for example, it’ll get right to the edge, then jump back in alarm.
Then we come to the eyes. This is a robot that makes eye contact with you. It wants interaction, it wants to know your name and play small games with you. Sure, it’s a tiny toy robot, but the animation really brings personality to it.
Directional mics mean that Vector can turn to listen to who is talking, and while it doesn’t have voice recognition, it will look at you, scan your face and know who you are – saying hello by name when it sees you again.
What’s really happening in Vector is something very complex. It’s listening and learning, processing information in the cloud (although no images or voice recordings go to the cloud) and offering itself as a smart interface. You can ask Vector for the weather, for example, or for other information, in the same way you might Amazon Alexa.
Sure, it’s a toy and it’s an expensive toy, but you can see how Anki is developing from smart car racing, into a smarter beings. No long is this about verbatim responses, it’s about learning and evolving. There’s an SDK too, so Vector can play its part in a growing connected world.
And just like your robot vacuum cleaner, when Vector starts to get a little tired, it will take itself back to the charger to fuel up again. Vector will be available for pre-order from today for £199, the normal retail price after the pre-order period will be £249.
Check out our guide to the best tech toys.