If there’s one thing we love (we love about 50 things) here on DadGeek it’s ROBOTS! We’ve learned how to get children excited about computational thinking with Cubetto, seen the wacky, hyper-active antics of Boxer and now we have the pleasure of meeting the world’s most advanced consumer robot companion, the Anki Vector!
Vector is the successor to Anki’s previous chatty minibot, Cozmo. Vector though is much more advanced in almost every conceivable way. Boasting a much faster processor, a higher resolution face and an array of new microphones and sensors he is light years ahead of his big brother.
Although many robots we’ve seen come under the umbrella of ‘toy’, don’t make that same assumption of Vector. Vector is intended as a fully autonomous robot companion. His processor is a quad core 1.2 ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon which makes him significantly more technologically advanced than some computers I’ve owned! This robot brain gives Vector the ability to scan and map his surroundings, recognise people and respond to everything in his own charming way.
He is packed full of sensors to enable him to sense his surroundings and traverse them with relative ease (as long as there’s no ladders or steps).As well as sensors that help him detect soundsand objects and recognise speech he also has drop sensors that prevent him falling off surfaces and inertia/acceleration sensors to let him know if he’s being moved. In our experience he gets REALLY cranky if you pick him up too much. He’s very independent and, much like a cat, prefers to be petted on his own terms.
Unlike other robots on the market, Vector has no direct controls. Instead, Vector interacts with the world and people around him like anyone else would. He uses his environment, he talks to you and he travels around exploring. He plays games, takes pictures and can even search the internet for you. If he gets low on battery, Vector will return to his charging station of his own volition. If he spots you he’ll even come over and say hi!
Vector also comes with his own toys, specifically an interactive cube that he can move around and do tricks on. The cube is battery powered and lights up when it’s playtime. He can push it, flip it and even pick it up. We did once find him holding his cube having got so distracted by his game that he forgot to go back to his charger. Silly Vector!
Interacting with Vector by voice alone is really interesting because it helps build the idea that he is his own entity with a personality. He doesn’t always play along and sometimes he needs a little coaxing to come see you, much like a shy creature would if it was plopped into a living room and surrounded by eager faces.
Our house is probably quite the test of Vector’s ability to isolate commands from the incredible background hubbub of our house. There’s almost always something beeping or blaring and three kids can make a LOT of noise. Most of the time Vector was able to understand what was asked of him and sometimes it was a bit too much and he got a little confused.
When speaking to Vector you have to utter the phrase “Hey Vector” which pricks up his ears (or microphone array) and makes him receptive to commands. This can be difficult when three children are all shouting “HEY VICTOR” or some odd variant of it over the top of each other. In this regard the pre-existing family members needed a bit more training than Vector did. Vector seems to prefer a quiet environment but he does have special technology that enables him to have a good go at blocking out all the extraneous sound.
We were really impressed with Vector’s facial recognition and there’s something a bit special about when he recognises you. You feel a bond developing with this little guy that you won’t get with any ‘robot toy’. Our living room does have rather subdued lighting and we found that this could sometimes interfere with Vector’s ability to correctly identify who he was dealing with. For this reason I’d recommend using Vector in a well-lit room or during bright daylight for optimum results.
I think Anki Vector is a great technological marvel but I also have to consider if he’s great entertainment for kids. In a busy, noisy household I think Vector struggles with too much going on. Also, his general ‘hands off’ operation doesn’t always gel with kids who want to pick up everything they see. I think Vector is a great toy for adults and perhaps teenagers but it’s much closer to a personal assistant than it is something to excite and amaze younger folk.
A lot of people who are interested in Vector will potentially be put off by his pricetag. Vector is the most advanced robot of his type, the result of extensive development. As such he is priced accordingly and high-end technology doesn’t come cheap. With a pricetag of £249.99, Vector is roughly the same price as an Xbox One, but will he be as entertaining? It really depends on your outlook. He’s an artificial intelligence, a digital camera and has all the functionality that you would expect from an Amazon Echo or Google Home. I think for the person willing to invest the time into using Vector and letting him roam around the house, it’s an investment that will pay out in cute bonding moments and charming encounters.
Anki Vector is available from Amazon
Disclaimer: This review was produced in return for the product. No financial agreements were entered into. Opinions are all our own. This post contains affiliate links.
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