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Need a pal? Vector the mini-bot will brighten your day

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Need a pal? Vector the mini-bot will brighten your day article image

He’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. He can tell you the time or let you know if any rain is on the way – and he gets really upset if you beat him at Blackjack.

Meet Vector, the playful new mini home robot from Anki, the company that specialises in fun tech with a difference.

Vector is the successor to Anki’s first toy robot Cozmo. (Anki is also known for its Overdrive Scalextric-style racing car game). But Vector is being promoted more as a home companion robot than a toy.

He can be used by the whole family. In reality, Vector becomes part of the family as well as a personal digital assistant.

Unlike his little brother Cozmo, Vector is connected to the cloud. Where Cozmo relies on a smartphone app, Vector hooks straight into your Wi-Fi connection and is largely app free. 

Upgraded technology makes Vector more autonomous.

His voice recognition capabilities are far superior to Cozmo – and he can understand different dialects including Aussie, UK and US. (We’re yet to try Kiwi and South African accents).

He can recognise human faces and animals. When first introduced, Vector was able to recognise my face and voice.

Built-in voice assistant

But he’s not a one-person robot. Vector can remember and recognise up to 20 people.

He comes with a built-in voice assistant to answer your questions about the weather, time or general trivia. Vector can answer dozens of general knowledge questions and trivia, pulling in data from the internet. He can also set up alarms and reminders or take your picture.

There are a variety of entertainment features which include playing cards and interacting with his bluetooth enabled Vector Cube.

Vector looks slightly different to Cozmo – he’s chunkier and features a different colour scheme – black with gold trimmings – while Cozmo is gloss white.

And he’s just as charming as his little brother.

He has the same tank treads and bulldozer like articulating arm on the front. This allows him to move and lift items – and to give you a fist bump when you request it.

Cute facial expressions

He even comes with a similar charging dock. But unlike Cozmo, when he needs more power he’ll roll over to his charger all on his own.

Vector has an OLED display up front used to display facial expressions and interact with his owners and “friends”.

Say the words “Hey Vector” at any time to get his attention and he will respond with eye contact and a cute robotic computerised voice. When he understands the question Vector plays a confirmation sound and his backpack lights turn blue to let you know he’s listening and ready to interact.

Apart from voice control, Vector comes with a host of other upgrades. He has a higher resolution camera, boosted from VGA to 1,920 x 1,080p, which helps to improve facial recognition and take better quality photos.

On board is a Qualcomm Snapdragon, Quad Core 1.2GHz chip, offering up the same power as some smartphones and tablets.vector1-1060x715

Potential to become a mobile Alexa

While Anki insists it is more a companion robot than a virtual assistant, Vector has the potential to become a mobile Google Home assistant or Alexa Echo.

Anki says it is planning other features for Vector, including messaging personal contacts, security camera integrations, and support for Tile and Amazon Alexa.

Vector is designed to have emotion and becomes bored if you ignore him.

And a warning … he doesn’t like it when you pick him up. He may throw a little tantrum and try to free himself from your grip.

Unlike Cozmo, Vector is equipped with a single-point, time of flight laser sensor. This enables more accurate mapping of his surroundings. If you leave him alone he will try to explore his surroundings, avoiding obstacles and even moving objects out of his way as he rolls along.

When his energy is running low (he has up to 1-hour battery life) he will make his way back to his charging bay.

If you put him on a table or desktop but on a raised desk his edge sensors do a pretty good job at keeping him safe. But it pays to keep an eye on him – he is still prone to take the odd tumble.

Instant attraction

It’s hard not to like this playful little companion. You’ll be instantly attracted to his cute robotic voice, movements and expressions.

And you can’t help but to interact with the little bot.

He just loves attention. Giving him a small pat and his back sensors will light to say “thanks.”

Like a pet puppy he gets excited when you walk into the room and he hears your voice.

Vector oozes charm and personality.

VERDICT

Vector can't do your housework or answer your phone, but it will entertain you and your family for hours.

This little bot is clearly a more sophisticated machine than his little brother Cozmo. 

Vector comes with a hefty price tag (RRP $449) but he has endless potential. There’s no doubt Anki will continue to expand Vector’s capabilities for years to come.

In the near future, Anki has hinted he will evolve more from a companion robot into a smart home assistant. By the end of the year the company hopes to give Vector the ability to speak with Amazon Alexa.

That means you can ask even more questions, hear the latest news and automate things like lights and temperature in your home.

Vector could also become your personal security guard patrolling the perimeter of your home night and day sensing and recording any movement – and sounding an alarm.

Meanwhile, Vector is certainly enjoyable to play with and would make a great Christmas gift for any family.

The lovable little home bot is now available in Australia through JB Hi-Fi, Australian Geographic and Amazon.

Key features 

  • RRP: $449.95
  • 1-hour battery life
  • Wi-Fi
  • Requires an iOS or Android device
  • Quad-core Snapdragon CPU
  • 100MHz Cortex M4 CPU
  • OLED "eyes" display
  • Quad far-field mic
  • 4x drop sensors
  • IR object scanner
  • 1080p camera

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