Meet Vector, Anki's Tiny Voice Assistant Robot

Vector looks like Anki's Cozmo toy robot, save for the darker color scheme, but it's actually a cloud-connected, smart home-controlling voice assistant.

We're used to thinking of voice assistants as smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, or little bars that pop up on your phone. Anki is going in a different direction with its voice assistant, by putting it in a cute little robot forklift.

Anki newly announced Vector is a cloud-connected robot that can freely roam around your desk while making noises and faces like Wall-E.

Vector is physically identical to Cozmo, the programmable toy robot Anki released in 2016, save for a darker color scheme. It has the same triangular treads, the same ball-shaped "head" with indicator lights that look like emotive eyes, and the hook-equipped lifting arm on the front. Functionally, however, Vector is a completely different beast from Cozmo.

Anki Vector

Cozmo is a STEM toy, a programmable robot you can control with your smartphone or tablet, using tile-based programming to give it instructions. It's playful and educational, using plastic blocks and an app to teach basic coding concepts and demonstrate how machines respond to different stimuli.

Vector on the other hand is an always-on, cloud-connected, AI-controlled robot with a voice assistant. It doesn't need an app, and it isn't intended to be directly programmed by users. It simply roams around wherever you place it (like a desk or shelf), learning about its surroundings and the people around it while offering helpful voice-control functions.

Vector can explore and meet new people, using its IR sensors to map out the area around it and its 120-degree camera to detect and identify users' faces. This face detection helps Vector become used to different people, responding in various ways to faces it recognizes.

Anki Vector

Vector features a color IPS screen for a face, which—combined with servos for tilting—produces emotive expressions. Vector will squint, stare, wink, and laugh as it receives attention through voice interaction, face detection, and even touch, if you want to pet the robot.

Of course, all of this makes Vector more like a toy robot than a useful home device. That's where the always-on function and voice assistant features come in. Vector offers a fully functional voice assistant similar to Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Using voice commands, you can ask Vector for useful information like trivia, weather reports, or unit conversions, or have Vector keep track of timers and alarms.

Anki Vector

Anki is working on more in-depth voice assistant features for Vector in the future. The company plans to equip Vector with smart home device control like Alexa and Google Assistant, and is exploring using Vector's camera as a home security camera users can remotely tap into.

Anki Vector arrives in October for $249, but Anki will offer a 20 percent pre-order discount on Kickstarter from now until Sept. 6, reducing the price to $199.

About Will Greenwald