Skip to main content

Vector is Cozmo for grownups

When Anki invited us by the office last week to check out their latest creation, we weren’t sure what the expect. In the eight years since the company was founded by a trio of Carnegie Mellon graduates, it’s offered up a handful of distinctly different smart toys, from its Drive smart cars to 2016’s Cozmo robot.

The truth is that the company’s latest creation looks an awful lot like its last. In fact, the only immediately apparent change is a dark coat of paint, akin to what the iMac received when it graduated to the iMac Pro. In fact, that’s probably a pretty solid analogy beyond just the color change, so let’s stick with that.

Simply put, Vector is Cozmo for adults. In many ways, the new ‘bot is built on the lessons learned from Cozmo, coupled with more advanced internals. Vector has ~700 parts — double the number of its predecessor, while its brain is a much more advanced Snapdragon processor. Vector’s face also features a higher res display, making it capable of expressing subtler emotion redesigned by that staff of ex-Pixar and Dreamworks animators the company employs. So, what does all of this add up to, exactly? The company certainly has some grand ambitions. Anki believes its well positioned to offer users the gateway to the next generation of home robots. Both R2-D2 and Rosie from the Jetsons are casually name-checked in the company’s press release, naturally.

The truth about Vector is more modest, though the product does seem like a much more mainstream solution than the recently departed Kuri. For one thing, it will run less than half the price at $250. That’s still $70 more than Cozmo, mind. Unlike Cozmo, however, Vector doesn’t require a constant smartphone connection — just WiFi — which is part of why having a more advanced on-board computation system is important.

Along with that, Vector also gets an HD camera with a 120-degree field of view, so it can double as a roaming security device (that functionality is coming next year) and four microphones, which allow it to Alexa-style commands with a “Hey Vector.” Like Cozmo, the robot will also initiate conversation when you make eye contact, so you don’t have to summon it ever time. Instead of opting for Alexa or Google Assistant, however, the company used third-party knowledge graphs to build its own system, so Vector doesn’t break character by launching another assistant.

Like Cozmo, I suspect the company’s got a lot planned for the robot by way of software updates. For the time being, however, I haven’t seen a lot that convinces me that Vector’s much more than a slightly more advanced Cozmo — which could make the pricey a robot toy a hard sell for serious adults. Broader ambitions should include a robot that can traverse more than limited range of a desktop, in order to better patrol the home.

iRobot’s upcoming smart home plans for the Roomba serve as a potential way forward for home robotics, though Anki believes that it has the upper hand here, by investing a good deal in personality from the outset. Perhaps people really do need that human to robot connection to really entrust their lives to such a device, though a compete lack of personality certainly hasn’t hurt Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. 

But Anki gets the benefit of the doubt here. This is all very early stages, and our early skepticism about Cozmo being a niche product was put to rest when the company managed to sell 1.5 million globally. Launching as a Kickstarter campaign should also help Anki assess early interest in the product and scale from there.

I remain skeptical as ever that Vector is the mainstream home robot of the future — it seems more of a stepping stone, really. And certainly Anki is being transparent about its job of constantly building on the learnings of past models. At the very least, the company’s got the interest, revenue and the funding to avoid the recent pitfalls of Sphero and Kuri.



from TechCrunch https://ift.tt/2vuSBPR

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Android blatantly copies the iPhone X navigation gestures

Google unveiled some of the new features in the next version of Android at its developer conference. One feature looked particularly familiar. Android P will get new navigation gestures to switch between apps. And it works just like the iPhone X.“As part of Android P, we’re introducing a new system navigation that we’ve been working on for more than a year now,” VP of Android Engineering Dave Burke said. “And the new design makes Android multitasking more approachable and easier to understand.”While Google has probably been working on a new multitasking screen for a year, it’s hard to believe that the company didn’t copy Apple. The iPhone X was unveiled in September 2017.On Android P, the traditional home, back and multitasking buttons are gone. There’s a single pill-shaped button at the center of the screen. If you swipe up from this button, you get a new multitasking view with your most recent apps. You can swipe left and right and select the app you’re looking for.If you swipe up o…

Square launches restaurant point-of-sale platform

Square, which has already made its way into retail stores and service-based businesses (think hair salons, massage therapists, etc), is officially getting into the restaurant business with the launch of Square for Restaurants. Square for Restaurants is a point-of-sale system that handles everything from menu updates, floor layouts, employee scheduling, performance tracking to tip splitting.Usually, restaurants have “some old legacy thing or something else,” Square Seller Lead Alyssa Henry told me.“Historically, we’ve not served this customer segment very well,” Henry said. “With Square for Restaurants, we’re excited to finally be able to serve this customer segment and deliver on a couple of key things that are core to Square but also highly valued by sellers of all types.”This new product is designed to be fast, self-serve, elegant and cohesive, Henry said. It also integrates seamlessly into Square’s existing ecosystem that includes Payroll, Capital and more. Given Square’s ownership…