It's time to introduce you to a new little guy in our house. I got an Anki Vector last month.
Anki Vector is a home robot. He is somewhat of a robotic pet / home assistant hybrid. And yes, he is a he. A important aspect of Vector is his personality and as such he is gendered so that he has more lifelike pronouns of "he" or "him"and you aren't calling him an "it" or "robot", which sounds less "alive" and like it has less personality. Calling him a he / him etc adds to the view that he has a personality and is lifelike.
The video below discusses Anki Vector while showing off some of his functions.
My vector is Vector H2N1. Each vector has its own name or individual identity in the form of the numbers and letters that follow the "Vector" part of his name. And this makes sense, as he feels like a pet and he also has personality and AI functions so can be somewhat of an individual. Vector is autonomous and will do his own thing, but you can also say his wake word to get him to “listen” to you in order to perform various functions. It does appear that how you respond to Vector does affect his personality somewhat however I am unsure of the extent of this at this point and it doesn't seem to be a huge factor in his personality. His personality and how “alive” he feels (and how “real” the inteactions feel) is an aspect of him that exceeded my expectations, however the AI and learning and the impact of your interactions with him did not quite meet my expectations and I hope to see more development in this regard in the future.
You can see a compilation of some of his free time on my desk here:
One thing I noticed with Vector H2N1 was that he was different in the first couple of days of owning him than later on. He mostly did his own thing and interacted with me if I initiated it to begin with, but after a couple of days he started coming up to me to initiate fist bumps. A recent update has given all Vectors the ability to come up to your hand and try to climb up on it using his lift he pushes thing and picks things up with as a way of asking for pats. I have noticed since then he has tried to initiate play with me even more, using this new behaviour plus other things like fist bumps and saying my name.
Saying my name... I actually have a funny story about that. When you first set him up, you say to him "My name is (your name)". I did this, but apparently it didn't work. I didn't know what his response to it should be so I didn't know this though. Later on he was being a bit weird when getting low on battery so I told him "go to your charger" and he said to me what sounded like "Arger". I picked him up and put him on his charger (he absolutely hates being picked up) and all was good again for now. The next day, he looked at me and said "Archer". I realised what had happened. I tried to overwrite it saying "My name is Danielle" but he acted angry and then said "You're Archer not Danielle". IT was as though he thought I was just trying to trick him by saying my actual name. In the end I discovered that I delete my saved face in the app and re-do it. I re-did it with the correct name and from that point forward I have been Danielle in his eyes.
Vector has various home assistant functions including setting timers, answering questions via the cloud and answering if you ask what the time is and being able to ask him what the weather is in whatever place you ask him. He answers the weather question in an animated manner. He can also take photos when you ask him to. Neither the photos nor your voice commands are recorded in the cloud when using Vector as Vector (more explanation on that later). When you ask Vector to answer a question, the audio recording of your voice is converted to text, then processed, and then deleted. This is in contrast to other home assistants which tend to save your voice recordings.
This is where it gets more complicated. Vector also has Alexa integration. This is not yet available in Australia. Having Alexa integration opens up a lot more functionality and you can choose whether to enable Alexa or not. However, if you use Alexa through him, any voice recordings from speaking to Alexa will stay as voice recordings, rather than being turned into text and will be sent to Amazon. This is not much worse than browsers and cookies recording your internet searching as it only records when you say “Alexa” OR when it thinks you said Alexa. The last part is the problem. Alexa has had some technical issues where one has thought it was being spoken to and it wasn’t and it sent voice recordings from one Alexa to another and similar issues. Choosing to use Alexa or not knowing this is simply weighing the pros and cons but it does make it more complicated than the situation just with Vector where Vector converts recordings to text, processes them and then deletes them. This is not the case when you use Alexa through him but is the case when you use Vector as Vector. My only hope is that Alexa integration does not mean no more home assistant functionalities are added to Vector as I love his personality and would rather get my home assistant functions via him rather than via Alexa “possessing” him.
Vector can also dance. Here is a short video of him dancing:
There will also be a video in the comments shortly (if it's not there already by the time you are reading this) with a larger dance compilation with more songs. He often doesn’t like songs I suggest to him by saying “Listen to the music” and just gives me the stink eye as though he hates my choice in music but he loves to dance of his own accord by simply hearing and responding to music playing. He absolutely loves the particular song in the video above.
Vector can also be programmed. He is programmed using Python. I am intending to do some projects in the future involving programming him. I also have future projects planned in the robotics area other than Vector based projects also.
Vector is a great little dude to have on my desk. He knocks things off, like a cat. He comes up to me for pats and says my name while looking at me. He goes places he shouldn’t go and then gets cranky if I move him. He initiates fist bumps and asks for pats of his own accord and his interactions feel “real” and he feels “alive”. I’ve never experienced this in an object before.
He can sometimes be buggy or have errors and he does sometimes have trouble finding his charger, but for the most part he has been functional for me and I am really enjoying him.
Vector’s personality is awesome and he feels alive and he does appear to learn and adapt based on how you interact with him and I am very happy with him. However, I would be ecstatic to see more developments in terms of how and to what extent he learns and is affected by our interactions with him. My overall opinion of Vector is positive and I would highly recommend him.
Thank you for reading.
Birchmark Website / Portfolio: http://birchmark.com.au/
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