Vector, a tiny desktop companion robot that was both surprisingly endearing and unsurprisingly useless, met its demise earlier this year when its creator, Anki, ran out of money and shut down. But despite the robot failing to justify its $250 price tag, it apparently has its fans, and Vector is being brought back from the dead.
As The Verge points out, these companion robots, despite being primitive and basic compared to automatons like Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS, are still capable of surprisingly lifelike human interactions thanks to an always-on connection to powerful cloud computers that process voice commands, facial recognition, and other features that tiny bots like Vector need to be brought to life. But when the company behind them shuts down, as Anki did, they often stop paying for those remote computers to operate, which disables the backend functionality that makes these social robots seem so lifelike.
But yesterday, on Anki’s Kickstarter page, Jacob Hanchar, the CEO of Digital Dream Labs, revealed that his company had purchased all of Anki’s assets and planned to not only restore the entire Vector (and Cosmo, Vector’s predecessor) platform, it would also continue to develop the robotic toy, and will maintain the cloud servers from here on out. The company also mentioned plans to create what it calls an “Escape Pod” which will eventually allow Vector to function without the need for the cloud servers, in case people still struggle to find a reason to spend $250 on a robot that doesn’t do much and an open-source development-friendly version of Vector for programmers who want to tinker with the bot.
What the post didn’t reveal, however, was any plans to also revive Anki’s well-received Overdrive racing sets, which featured AI-powered remote control cars that could autonomously navigate custom tracks without the need for grooves or railings like traditional slot car toys relied on. Unless the company has a super-secret plan to breath new functionality into Vector, we’d almost prefer to see Digital Dream Labs focus its efforts on Overdrive moving forward.