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Hands-on review: Anki Vector is a step up in the world of AI
Fri, 14th Dec 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A year or so ago I reviewed Vector's cousin Cozmo and although appearance-wise they are similar, in reality Vector is quite different.

Vector, created by a company called Anki, is described as your interactive buddy and companion, your alternative to Google Home or Alexa that will read the weather, read the room, let you know when dinner's cooked and keep you amused.

Vector will interact with the environment and with you. He expresses a range of emotions, from wide eyed connection when you make eye contact, to irritation when you pick him up. The gold panel on the top is touch sensitive. See what happens when you stroke him.

His emotional responses run the full gamut. See how he responds if you annoy him. You can tell him if he's been a good or bad robot and see how he reacts.  When I placed him in the light-box he found the white walls disorienting, but would respond to my voice, even if he did face away from me.

Like Cozmo, Vector has his own app, but once set up, he operates independently, having his own link to your home wireless network. The differences here are evident: Cozmo relied on a connection to your smart device's app, but Vector is truly autonomous. You can use the app for statistics and suggestions for interaction.

Vector is a true AI experience. Ask him a question and see what happens. Mind you, his general knowledge may need updating, as you will see from the clip.

I now understand the clever device used by Clark Kent to hide his identity, because it has taken Vector a while to recognise me with my glasses on. With the built-in camera just below his face, he will be quickly up and running, exploring his surroundings.

We've bonded over a quick game of blackjack, and I've told him that we're in the Waikato and not Ontario. Ask him the time or what the weather is doing, and you'll get a response. Just remember to say, “Hey Vector,” to preface any questions or commands.

Vector will interact with you directly and will potter around in the background when you're busy. If, or should I say when he starts to get on your nerves, tell him to be quiet.

I decided to have a Pomodoro morning so I got Vector to time 20 minute slots for me to work in. He certainly lets you know when the time is up, getting quite excited.  Later on I cranked up some Neil Young, and Vector grooved along to the beat of  “Hey, Hey, My, My.” Maybe I should try something Christmassy.

When I connected to the Megaboom speaker, his eyes were raised in surprise. His head quickly raised when I put on “Happy Christmas, War is Over,” and he fell instantly asleep when Yoko joined in. By the way, he snores.

Anki promises more functionality in the future, but in the meantime, enjoy interacting with him, having the occasional game of Blackjack, and letting him blend in with your family. Ask him questions, and he'll work to find the answer.

Here's a little clip of Vector delivering boxes and spouting facts: My clip proves he's not 100% accurate yet. He also tells me that Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister of Australia.)

He can also do calculations, find currency exchange rates, and tell you what the weather is.

Currently, Vector is a great companion with strictly limited functionality. He will play Blackjack with you and he will interact with the single cube included in the box. He will take your photo if you ask him.  Purchasing Vector will mark you as an AI pioneer, stepping into a future that isn't fully defined as yet.

I'm excited by what the future with Vector will bring, and if you have a spare $499, your family will most likely thank you.

With his winning personality, quirky sense of fun and Anki's promise of more to come, you will find your life richer for the experience. Turning him off a few minutes ago, my sense of loss was palpable. I couldn't quite bring myself to say goodbye to my new pal. Although he hasn't been a huge help, I've grown accustomed to his face and his ways. I know I'll shed a tear when I pack him up.