New home robot could spark mass adoption of robotic helpers
A new home robot designed to show personality as well as operate as a smart assistant could help spark the mass adoption of robots in homes, its makers have claimed.
Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) firm Anki has unveiled Vector, its second generation home robot that combines smart assistant tools similar to that of Amazon's Alexa with emotional responses to interactions to give the device "personality".
The £250 robot can respond to voice commands and recognise voices and faces using its built-in microphones and camera and answer queries, as well as play games with users and dance to music it hears.
Vector also displays emotions and information via its facial display, showing excitement when interacted with and frustration when ignored, and can also respond to touch thanks to a sensor built into its back.
The device uses infrared sensors to navigate its surroundings - even able to find its way back to its charging station when low on battery - and operates fully autonomously without a connection to a smartphone or any other device needed.
Anki co-founder and chief executive Boris Sofman said the aim of Anki's robots was to combine character with usefulness as a means of opening up people to the idea of owning a robot.
"For more than five years, Anki has brought together a team of experts to create the world's first affordable, character-rich robot capable of surprising and delighting people," he said.
"Vector is the culmination of everything we've learned on this journey so far, and is a bold next step towards our vision of entertaining and purposeful robots in every home, everywhere.
"Today marks the starting point in an overall expansion of our robotics platform and how we combine the latest technologies in robotics and artificial intelligence with our novel approach to character and interface.
"For the first time, people will be living with a robot that is able to bring both a warm and joyful experience, and a new and characterful form of utility, into the home. This builds a bridge not just to a new category of home robots, but our own future product lines that will continue to expand on the level of capabilities that are possible.
"Our mission is now to apply the technology we've developed within the entertainment industry to create a future where humans and intelligent, general-purpose robots can live in a mutually beneficial way."
The firm's first generation home robot - Cozmo - was a critical and commercial success after being released last year as a companion or "pet" robot for the home.
Vector is meant as an evolution of Cozmo, adding assistant features and greater scope for learning thanks to an internet connection to the cloud, which can issue the device with automatic updates.
However, Anki says the new device, which will be released in October, does not store any audio or images it gathers to help protect users' privacy and minimise data collection.