The first time anyone watches Star Wars, Star Trek, or Lost in Space what do they want? A cute, smart robot companion. Over the years, there have been lots of products that try to do this. Remember Tamagotchi, Neopets, or even Furby (even if you’d rather forget!) But, what does that look like in the modern-day? It looks a lot like Anki’s Vector AI robot.
Vector is still very much alive, but it has had an interesting journey to be sure. Let’s take a look at the turbulent history of this neat little robot and the current iteration of Vector 2.0.
- Release Date
- Original price
- Units Sold
- Over 1.5 Million
Vector 2.0 Specs
Sadly, the original version of Vector doesn’t seem to be available anymore but the Vector 2.0, which follows a lot of the same specs, most certainly is!
|Processor:||Qualcomm 200 Platform|
|Display:||High-Res IPS Screen|
|Voice Support:||Alexa Built-in|
|Audio:||Four dual beam-forming mics|
|Movement:||6-Axis Inertial Measurement Unit|
|Camera:||HD Camera with 120˚ Ultrawide FoV|
|Availability:||Q3 of 2022|
Vector 2.0: Where to Buy
Vector 2.0 is coming, but it isn’t here yet. It was available for pre-order, but that period ended in July 2021. Digital Dream Labs have said the second generation of Vector and Cozmo, another AI robot companion, will ship in Q3 of 2022. They will be available for purchase through DDL once all pre-orders have been filled at $349.99. In the meantime, there are a few options to find the older models, but they are rare.
We were able to find the first-gen Vector on Google Shopping for $349.95, nearly the same price as the pre-order. After taxes, you’ll be looking to pay a total of about $390. Granted, the first-gen has a lot of the same hardware but it is missing a few key upgrades.
The History of Vector: What to Know
Why is the original Vector so hard to find, you ask? Well, that’s an interesting story. Anyone in the robotics industry for the past five or six years will certainly remember Anki. The plucky start-up that made cute little “Pixar-looking” robots. And while Vector certainly is cute, Anki was a serious player in robotics during its life.
History of Anki
The company was born in the Robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University when a group of robotics students decided to strike out into the tech start-up world. The company quickly found financial support from several VC firms and was able to produce its first product, Anki Drive. It debuted at an Apple press conference in 2013 and was released in Apple Stores across the U.S. and Canada later that year. Anki Drive was the title of a driving game played on IOS devices in tandem with remote-controlled cars.
Next, it released the Cozmo, a neat little educational AI robot. Cozmo was generally well-received but the biggest problem was that it was hard to find people willing to pay for such an expensive device that didn’t have that many things to do. But the hardware was very advanced and Anki decided to take another crack at it with Vector.
History of Vector
The original Vector was released in August 2018. Anki billed it as its second-generation AI robot, and it improved on Cozmo in a lot of ways. It looked a lot like Cozmo, but it had a lot more power and features which means it was more autonomous than Anki’s previous outings. The big thing Anki wanted to push is that Vector wasn’t merely a toy, it was actually helpful. It had better processing power, relied less on Wi-Fi to get around, and could talk, which added to its cuteness and put it closer to the realm of a smart speaker.
Anki released the first and only update, that they would do, to Vector in 2018 allowing it to connect with Amazon Alexa. Unfortunately, many of the financial backers for Anki started to become disillusioned. Many investors didn’t really understand the tech implications and felt like Anki was simply making toys. Which, it was, but the technology involved was very sound and as a practical application for AI robot research, toys made sense from a financial standpoint.
That fact was lost on investors and in 2019, after sounding out offers from other tech giants, Anki laid off its entire staff and closed its doors. Luckily, Vector’s (and Cozmo’s) lives were not over. Shortly after they went up for sale, Digital Dream Labs purchased the assets and took over the maintenance of server access. They have continued to update Vector with new features although a lot of the new features require a membership that costs $7.99 per month.
Later in 2019, announced that they would be relaunching the popular robot. There was a Kickstarter in 2019 and, in 2020, it was announced that DDL had reached a distribution deal with Protempo, a global distributor of consumer electronics.
Vector Versions: Each Edition
Vector by Anki
To date, Vector has only had one version widely available as the Vector 2.0 is set to launch later this year. When it was first released, Vector improved the power, mobility, and features of the Cozmo robot. It had more games to play, could talk, and featured a wide array of sensors to help it understand and maneuver around its surroundings much more freely.
Anki announced that it would make Vector open-source with Vector SDK. Unfortunately, Anki went under before it could keep this promise. When DDL acquired Vector, they decided to follow through on Anki’s promise and there was an update that allowed you to use the AI functionality and source code to create your own functions for your Vector.
The next generation of Vector, Vector 2.0, promises to keep much of the same hardware and capabilities of the original but with some improvements. It will have Amazon Alexa built-in, so you won’t have to worry about maintaining a Bluetooth connection. The battery life has been increased so that you can go longer without having to slot it into its adorable little charger in The Vector Space. DDL has also upgraded the camera with more pixels for better facial recognition and responsiveness.
Vector requires an app to get started but then it is fully controlled through facial recognition and voice commands. Some of the biggest additions that DDL has made are, well, just that, additions mainly for hobbyists. One of the major additional purchases you can make for Vector is Escape Pod, which allows hobbyists to remove Vector from DDL’s servers and run independently.
One of the things that might give a potential consumer pause is the fact that Vector is “always on.” Not unlike Amazon’s Echo or Google Home, Vector reacts to voice commands. But unlike those companies, DDL doesn’t collect or sell your personal data. It mainly just adds to the “alive” nature of Vector.
The Public Response
Vector was well-received by enthusiasts when it was first released. Fans of the Cozmo and Anki Drive were sold right away by the updated hardware, improved design, and software features. That said, it was expensive at $249.99 which put some potential fans off. However, for those willing to shell out the extra money, Vector was well worth it.
Even with this improved second-generation design, there were still kinks that needed to be worked out. The accompanying app wasn’t very user-friendly at first, so it was sort of a chore to set up. It also had some problems with its voice assistant since it didn’t support any more advanced voice assistants at launches like Google or Alexa.
The main problem for a lot of users was the same as Cozmo, there was only so much you could do with it. It could play more games, Blackjack was specifically pushed, had better movement, and the technology was very advanced, but it wasn’t all that useful like Anki hoped.
All in all, Vector is just a cool toy with some amazing applications for hobbyists and tinkerers. For those who have Vector already, getting a Vector 2.0 is probably a given. When DDL announced it would be continuing the life of Anki’s AI robot, owners were thrilled which shows there is still some love out there for this cute little robot. So, if you are looking for a fun new project or just a little buddy to keep you company at your desk, Vector is a great companion.