Consumer robotics and AI company Anki has announced Vector, a new fully-autonomous little robot that builds on the technology of last year’s cute and brilliant Cozmo. Promising a major leap forward in consumer robotics, Vector will come alive with even more personality than its predecessor, and will include direct cloud connectivity over Wi-Fi, removing the need to rely on an iOS device to power its interactions, essentially becoming an always-on robotic pet who will have an awareness of surroundings through touch, sight, and sound. Like Cozmo, Vector will gain new features and more intelligence over time courtesy of software updates, but with a direct cloud connection, such updates will arrive autonomously over-the-air without the need for any user interaction. A high-res color IPS display will allow Vector to react to his environment and display his personality, and even respond to human touch via a capacitive touch sensor on his back. An “Ask Vector” feature will also allow him to provide answers to factual questions, provide weather reports, and set timers, allowing him to double as a home assistant, and he’ll also be able to take pictures, perform facial recognition, play games, and dance to music.
Under the hood, Vector is built on a Qualcomm Technologies’ platform which provides the connectivity, computing, camera, and on-device AI capabilities that allow Vector to be smart, approachable, and autonomous without having to be tethered to a phone or require a permanent cloud connection, while an HD camera provides a 120-degree ultra-wide field of view so that Vector can see the world around him and identify people in the room. Four microphones will allow him to hear and detect commands from around the home using a “Hey Vector’ key phrase, and he will be able to locate and roll back to his charger automatically using a variety of sensors that will also keep him from falling off edges or down stairs.
“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,” said Boris Sofman, CEO and co-founder at Anki.”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. Today marks the starting point in an overall expansion for our robotics platform and how we combine the latest technologies in robotics and artificial intelligence with our novel approach to character and interface. For the first time, people will be living with a robot that is able to bring both a warm and joyful experience, as well as a new and characterful form of utility. This builds a bridge not just to a new category of home robots, but our own future product lines that will continue to expand on the level of capabilities that are possible.”
Vector is scheduled to launch in October in the U.S., Canada, U.K., New Zealand, and Australia, for $249 and will ship with one base charger and one interactive cube. Early adopters can get in for $199 via Anki’s Kickstarter campaign. Although Vector is fully autonomous and always-on, an iOS or Android device will be required for initial setup. Anki also plans to sell a Vector Space accessory separately, which will provide a home for Vector as a perch to observe any room and an area to perform in. A Vector SDK will also be coming earlier next year, which will be a toolkit based on the Python language that will allow advanced users to hardness Vector’s hardware and software technologies to provide new user experiences.