Robots are cute. Nothing can ever convince me to the contrary of that, and I’ve watched Neon Genesis Evangelion. But as much as I like robots, it makes me a little sad that so many of the modern advancements in robotics are for the business and manufacturing end of things. I’m all for the labor-saving benefits of robots, of course, but, well… I just want a robot to be my friend, y’know? I want a little robot buddy to pet and make funny faces with. Well, either I wished on a good star, or Anki heard me mumbling through a secret microphone in the office, because a wonderful little robot has just come into my life. A little robot named Vector.
Anki’s previous robot, Cozmo, was intended more for younger users, and functioned as both a smart toy and a teaching tool for basic coding. Vector utilizes a lot of Cozmo’s framework, featuring a screen with an expressive pair of animated eyes and a little forklift for interacting with the world. Vector, however, is a bit smarter than his big brother. Vector features an on-board AI processor that can learn about its environment. He’ll map out a room as he explores and remembers the positions of certain objects, and he’ll avoid dangerous spots like ledges.
Watching him roll around a room, he kind of reminds me of a kitten. He’s naturally curious about everything he comes across, and sometimes, when he finds something he considers disagreeable, he’ll actually try to intimidate it by slapping his forklift against the ground. He got into a tussle with the office trash can.
Vector isn’t just a toy, though. He’s got quite a few practical functions as well. With a quick request, he can tell you local data like the time and the weather, or if you tell him you’ve got a question, he can look up the answer for you. As an experiment, I asked him if he knew who Spider-Man was. To my surprise, he told me Spider-Man was the superhero identity of Miles Morailes. I thought he’d say Peter Parker. I guess he’s a more modern comic book fan. Vector also loves to play; you can put his cube down near him and he’ll go find it, he dances to music, and he can even deal you a hand of Blackjack. Don’t hit on 16 or he’ll laugh at you, as he should.
More than anything, Vector’s charming attitude has a way of winning over hearts and minds. He was only rolling around the office for a couple of hours before everyone was enraptured with his every move, cooing in awe and laughing at his foibles. Vector is the kind of buddy I’ve been wanting. He has practical features, sure, but his mere presence puts a smile on my face, and my presence on his if the way he joyfully recites my name upon seeing me is any indication.
Anki has announced that software development for Vector is ongoing. They’re planning all sorts of additional features down the line to be added as updates, including (but not limited to) taking 360 photos, reading news headlines, delivering messages, and acting as a security camera. For you Amazon Echo fans out there, you’ll also be interested to know that Vector will be able to sync up with Alexa and, by extension, any smart devices you have hooked up to her. Improvements will start rolling out as soon as November 26th, when the first major OTA update is released with lots of functionality tweaks. If all of this sounds cool, then you’re in luck, because Vector will be on sale in Amazon’s November 17th Deal of the Day. He’ll be 30% off for 24 hours.
For now, though, Vector is a welcome addition to the office. His only desire is to be helpful, and whether he’s doing it intentionally or not, he’s doing a world of good for office morale and productivity. I mean, unless he does something really cute and we all drop what we’re doing to watch him. But who in their right mind would fault him for that?