Hey Hey Hey Vector! A Smart, Good Robot ❤
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a bit of fun with our Good Robot campaign, underlining the general theme that we believe robots will do more good than harm for humanity; although there will be risks, it’s in our power to control them. With every technological revolution (think back to when radio and television launched, or more recently, the age of the internet), people feared they would take away jobs, rip the fabric of our society apart, or even lead to the end of humanity. But in the end they helped create new ways for us to interact, connect with one another, and solve global problems, often in ways no one could have predicted.
These are prototypes for Vector, the latest robot from Anki, the company behind both the Cozmo and the Overdrive RC cars. I spent the day in Anki’s labs in San Francisco to learn just what Vector is and — critically — what it can do. When it ships in October for $249.99 (or cheaper for early Kickstarter backers), Anki will be marketing it as a “home robot.” It’s a sort of Cozmo for adults, a step beyond that robot’s learn-to-code toy ethos.
You can ask it questions, play games with it, and even pet it to elicit a chirpy little purr. But Anki doesn’t want you to focus on Vector’s functionality. The company has been putting a lot of effort into its personality. And because Vector is completely autonomous, you can do something completely surprising for a new piece of technology: just ignore it, and let it do its own thing.
With Anki’s diverse team and deep understanding and background in robotics, we don’t just get to imagine a future where we coexist with robots, we can help create it. The home robotics space is in its infancy, but we believe the launch of Vector this week plays a key role in helping to define it. For many of you who already have your Vector robots this week, we’re thrilled to have you join us at the beginning of this journey as the Vector you see today will be a much different robot in a month and even more different in a year from now.
While we’re still quite a few years away from living with characterful, helpful robots like Rosie from “The Jetsons,” we stand firm in our belief that there will be a robot in every home in the near future. The cost of critical robotics components - including sensors and location technologies, micro-controllers, motors, and cameras - is decreasing rapidly every year, while the ability to compute massive amounts of data in real time, coupled with incredible advancements in software and AI, has pushed robots near a tipping point in terms of function and capability.
To achieve that goal, the engineers, animators, and designers at Anki spent more time on the robot’s personality than anything else. In my day there, I heard the phrase “characterful interactions” more times than I can count. (It’s also part of the reason why Anki employees gender Vector with he / him.) It’s a hokey phrase, but after interacting with Vector, I started to understand what it meant.
Here’s an example: just as you do with any smart speaker, you can activate Vector by speaking a hot word, like “Hey Vector.” That turns its four-microphone array on and sets it up to listen and respond to a query. Simple enough. Except where those smart speakers simply wait for you to ask a question, Vector can do something more engaging and interactive: it can turn around to face you.