Stories

Anki's latest robot knows a few new tricks

Anki's Vector robot
The $249 Vector robot goes on sale in October. Photo: Anki

Anki, known for its Overdrive iPhone-controlled race cars and Cozmo robot, is launching a third product called Vector. It's like Cozmo's older brother — capable of running on its own without a smartphone and able to find its own way to a charger.

Why it matters: Anki has bigger ambitions than most people realize, but believes the key to building Rosie from "The Jetsons" is to start small and get better over time.

"At a high level, our goal is to figure out how to get robotics into people’s homes," Anki president Hanns Tappeiner told Axios. So far Anki has sold 1.5 million of its first two products, including several hundred thousand Cozmos.

The details: Vector will sell for $249 and go on sale Oct. 12, with a Kickstarter pre-sale. It's powered by a Qualcomm quad-core processor, has about twice as many parts as Cozmo (nearly 700 vs 340) and operates independently over a Wi-Fi connection. Like Cozmo, it can recognize people's faces and enjoys play. This time around, the toy can also respond to both speech and touch.

Vector's debut comes as the makers of some higher-priced home robots have been forced to shut down.

Tappeiner is hopeful that at a lower price, Vector will avoid that fate. As for its use, Tappeiner thinks it is more like a digital pet for the whole family than a kid's toy, which was Cozmo's raison d'etre.

How it works: I was one of the first people outside the company to see a prototype Vector in action and have also had a chance to play more extensively with Cozmo.

  • Like Cozmo, Vector can recognize different people and say hi when it sees them. Both have a similar feel, though the sophistication and ambition with Cozmo is clearly higher.
  • Vector can learn more about each person it encounters, including whether they like to play.
  • Vector can take pictures when asked, play some basic games, deliver messages and answer some queries. (Asked for the weather in Seattle, during our demo, its eyes sloshed with rain.)
  • It's constantly building a map of the world it moves through, including obstacles and its charger.

What's next: Tappeiner said Anki's goal is to launch products every 2-4 years, each time moving the company closer to its longer-term goal of a truly useful home robot.