Vector Plus Alexa - A Useful Combo
Written by Lucy Black   
Saturday, 15 December 2018

Launched a couple of months ago, Anki's Vector Robot is a voice-activated desktop robot that can answer questions, show you the weather, provide a countdown timer, take photos for you and more. It now comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, greatly expanding its range of behaviors and its usefulness.  

Vector is a miniature robot with a big personality and is designed as a companion that will "hang out and help out". To fulfill the former role it, or  "he" according to Anki, performs tricks with its control cube, can navigate independently avoiding obstacles, and can play blackjack. Vector reacts to sound, sight and touch and communicates using synthesized sounds that give him a distinctive "voice" which, together with his eyes, conveys emotions. He is capable of face detection so can "recognize" people. He also has a text-to-speech capability to answer questions, but it the voice quality is not very clear.

Vector is cloud-connected via Wi-Fi and is a constantly updating platform. As this video shows, the latest update brings Amazon's Alexa voice and its range of default skills such as being able to set a reminder, create a shopping list and control smart home devices like lights, speakers, and thermostats. 

Vector was always intended to appeal to adults rather than kids - Anki's Cozmo, similar in size and launched in 2016 is the company's educational robot for younger users - and the addition of Alexa certainly boosts its role as a personal assistant.

Vector isn't the first Alexa-powered robot - that distinction went to Ubtech's miniature humanoid robot Lynx - but at the current promotional price of $174.99, Vector is a lot more affordable than Lynx at $799.

It may be that Alexa and similar services are the kick start that home robotics has been waiting for. Adding voice to even the dumbest robot makes it seem so much more intelligent - even if it isn't much more than Alexa with wheels bolted on.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 December 2018 )