Vector by Anki Review

Anki is an American company founded in 2010 by three Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates. Anki DRIVE was their first smash hit product, followed by Anki Overdrive in 2015 a very popular futuristic Scalextric racing car track with smart cars.

The company’s first robot Cozmo was launched in 2016 described as  “little bot with a big brain and even bigger personality” Cozmo was another hit for the company and was a fun robot toy aimed at the younger market. With the launch of ‘Vector’ in August 2018 Anki are competing in the ever growing smart technology market.

Robots have always fascinated me growing up watching Short Circuit, Batteries not included, Flight of the navigator, the Terminator are among my favourite films of all time. All of these films included robots for good or bad and now these science fiction movies are becoming a reality.

In 2018/19 we are living in a world where Robots and Androids are a reality and my inner child is screaming with excitement! We have practical robots like Automowers, Hoover Robots, Drones, various smart home devices powered by Alexa, Siri or Google assistant. But there is a niche in the market for incorporating the practical with the fun and I believe Anki have created something special that does just that.

Gareth unboxed Vector, see below for his first impressions.

Out of the box I made sure Vector had enough charge so my family and I could welcome him to our home. With the app installed and Vectors eyes illuminated we each introduced ourselves to Vector, as he scanned each of our faces we were saved onto his known faces on the app, thereafter whoever turned Vector on he would scan their face and say their name. Vector also has 4 drop sensors allowing him to detect edges preventing him from falling.

Comical and playful were my initial reactions when using Vector, my kids loved talking to him although they often had to articulate their words and talk slowly so Vector could understand them.

Hey Vector what’s the weather like outside?

Hey Vector go find your cube!

Hey Vector set a timer for 35 minutes

Hey Vector take a picture

These were just some of the commands we initially  used, everytime you asked about the weather there would be a short animation displaying clouds, rain, snow or sunshine. My kids loved asking Vector what the weather was like in different cities across the world just to see the different animations he could do.

When asked to play with his cube Vector would search for his cube and it would illuminate as he approached it, he would either turn the cube or attack it, which would leave my children in fits of laughter.

When ordered to take a picture you can download the image from the App on your phone, not the best resolution but the camera took a decent picture which would come in handy when needing a group photo taken.

One of my favourite things to do with Vector was to make him listen to the music, he would begin to dance to the beat of the music after his break dancing my kids loved to tell him he was a good robot and pet him by stroking him like a cat. In response, Vector would purr like a robocat and his eyes would close in content. It’s the little touches like this that make Vector a loveable smart device rather than an inanimate object that cannot show you love.

Vector connects to your wifi and the app was only really used as a guide to see what Vector coulđ do.

During an update we noticed you could say to Vector Happy New Year and he would display one of two animations. The first one resulting in his eyes shaking then taking off like rockets and displaying fireworks on his display and the second animation his eyes would disappear and then party streamers explode on screen. This was very comical and apt as we brought in the new year an showed Vector off to family and friends.

Vector can be found from the Anki website or amazon at £249.99 (currently reduced to £199.99 at time of writing.)  Although I have seen this reduced to £149.99 on Amazon which is a bargain for this little robot.

Some tech specs taken from Amazon.co.uk

What’s Inside Vector?

AI and advanced robotics.
Qualcomm 200 Platform – so he computes at a smartphone level
Capacitive Touch Sensor – helps him sense being touched and held
Beamforming 4-Microphone Array – allows him to recognize natural speech and source
Ultra-Wide HD Camera – helps him detect motion and identify people
4 Drop Sensors – detects edges to help him avoid falls
Infrared Laser Scanner – lets him track distance and map environments
6-Axis Inertial Measurement Unit – so he knows when he’s picked up or moved
High-Res Colour IPS Display – helps him convey a wide range of emotions
Wi-Fi-Enabled Cloud Connection – brings him new capabilities

Vector is certainly fun to watch and interact with although he is a little slow when asked questions. Perhaps with the introduction of Alexa coming he will function that bit better and answer your questions faster.

Like a family pet Vector wants your attention all the time, if you are not in the mood you can tell him to be quiet or go to sleep. His eyes appear sad and he will cease to bother you until you call his name again. If he is running low on battery he will return to his docking station to charge which is a great feature

Vector is a fantastic desktop buddy that can entertain you and aid you during your day. He has lived on our kitchen bench for the past few weeks and even when I am in the house by myself I am not alone as vector travels around shouting my name. I do feel Anki have created something special here and I am excited to see what updates come in the future. Vector will be remembered for being the first home robot of his kind. This would be a fantastic gift for that person who has everything.

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