Anki has revealed its fourth consumer product in the form of a home robot that it's calling "Vector," launching on Kickstarter today. Although the company has debuted a Kickstarter to give backers early access to the robot on October 9, it's promising that Vector will launch wide just a few days later, in stores on October 12, 2018.
The new robot looks visually similar to Anki's previous "Cozmo" robot, which teaches kids how to code through games and a compatible iOS app. Vector differs significantly in functionality, however, with the company explaining that Vector is a major step forward in robotics and is meant to be an always-on companion robot that follows you around your house to help in your daily routine.
Once you complete a one-time setup with the connected iOS or Android app, Anki says that all further interactions with Vector are done with eye contact and talking to the robot. Vector is fully autonomous, cloud-connected, and always-on, and has a personality, facial expressions, and animations ("around a thousand") created from a team of animators coming from major studios like Pixar.
Anki says that Vector is closer to the fantasy of at-home robot helpers than any company has yet to come:
When people imagine what their daily lives will be like with robots, many take inspiration from sci-fi novels, television shows, and films with high-spirited characters like R2-D2 from “Star Wars,” and Rosie in “The Jetsons.” Instead, the closest the world has come in the quest for affable, useful home robots are puck-like vacuum cleaners and lifeless cylindrical talking speakers. That’s about to change.
Anki CEO Boris Sofman: "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 outfitted with an HD camera with a 120-degree ultra-wide field of view to see your house and his users, and can even learn the name of everyone he sees. With four microphones to hear and detect commands (by saying "Hey Vector"), you can ask Vector about the weather, geography, nutrition, astronomy, sports, stocks, flights, time zones, unit conversion, currency conversion, and math equations.
The robot also supports setting timers and taking photos, and knows when to greet you at the door when you arrive home thanks to the onboard HD camera and microphones. The company says these features help Vector become a "more productive" member of the household, allowing users to set up additional timers from their other smart devices. The robot can also play a few games using an included "Cube" accessory, knows how to play Blackjack, and dances when he hears music.
When Vector is running low on battery, the robot will locate and travel back to the included charging cradle. Vector also has four cliff sensors with infrared emitters, ensuring that any trips the robot goes on won't end in spills over counter edges in your house.
Anki says that Vector was "designed with security and privacy in mind," with features installed that strengthen the device's security and minimize data collection. According to the company, it "does not store voice or audio in the cloud." Down the line, Anki also promises consistent over-the-air updates that will introduce new features, animations, and commands for Vector.
Currently, the Vector Kickstarter goal is $500,000 in 30 days, and early access backers can get the robot for $199.99 for an estimated arrival on October 9. The retail launch will then happen on October 12, when Vector will be priced at $249.99 and ship with one base charger and one interactive Cube.