Vector is a cute, determined, smart, little robot that wants, nay needs, nay craves your attention. When it, sorry he, is awake, so are you.
No, Vector is not like a Tamagotchi – if you don’t feed him he won’t die – although sometimes you wish he would! Persistent little bugger, begging for attention.
Do we need a robot in every home?
A friend told me they thank Google Assistant every time it completes a task. While I find this very sweet(and a little odd), it made me consider that we generally don’t feel much for our home assistants. They are mostly cold pieces of design to blend into our homes. They don’t have personalities we can bond with.
Robotics company Anki wants to change that, with the introduction of the Vector robot ($449). It is a small, AI-driven robot with personality and can assist you with some non-mechanical tasks. Like a demanding voice assistant on wheels.
GadgetGuy first saw Vector in August. Our announcement was very positive. Well, under the controlled conditions of the demonstration anyway. So what is the reality? Gadgeteer Jim Matthews presents a comprehensive review.
Vector (website here) is Anki’s third commercial offering, and the company’s first foray into a fully-autonomous, cloud-connected robot. That means its functionality does not need your mobile phone or an app to function. All connectivity, computing, camera and AI goes via its onboard Qualcomm quad-core 1.2GHz processor to the Anki robot cloud. You do need internet for it to work.
Lots of effort has gone into making Vector a personality-driven device. Anki has gone so far as to hire animators from Pixar and DreamWorks. As a result, the range of emotion shown on Vector’s IPS display and fluid motions go a long way to building its personality.
As you can see from the video below, there is a lot of tech inside Vector.
Setup and Use
Set up is intuitive but took me a couple of attempts. Is it something I said?
It takes about 30 minutes. The iOS or Android companion app links it to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi (not 5GHz), opens your Vector account, pairs Bluetooth (for the phone app), and you must accept its terms and conditions to continue.
Place Vector and its charging dock on a reasonably sized tabletop in your home,
All done, Vector rolled gracefully off the base and asked me to greet Vector and introduce myself.
“Hey, Vector,” I said. “My name is Jim.” Vector heard me but wheeled off. I tried again, but like a trapped guest at a dinner party, it seemed to look around for anyone else to talk to. The cure is a full reset – robot suicide – and we start over again.
Unfortunately, these communications problems persisted.
I suspect my ADSL2+ connection is too slow for Vector. Often it is very sluggish to respond or wanders for a few moments as if it were about to do something but fails to follow through.
At other times, Vector wouldn’t respond at all. Part of the frustration here is that Vector would not give any indication that the request had failed. I just had to wait and watch it wander about. Granted, if you have a faster Wi-Fi network at home, this problem may not affect you. For me, it is an additional barrier that put a dampener on the experience.