If there's a robot uprising anytime soon, it seems unlikely to start in our living rooms. Robotic vacuums like Roomba sell well because they are so handy. But other types of home robots–pets and companions from Sony's Aibo robo-pooch to the recently shuttered Kuri (backed by Bosch)–have flopped due to both prices and expectations that have been set unreasonably high. If any company can eventually bring us a domestic robot like Rosie from The Jetsons, Anki is a good bet. Started by three Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates in 2010, the company has racked up over $200 million in venture funding.
In my many years testing all sorts of gadgets, few things have elicited as much spontaneous joy as Anki's Cozmo, its adorable robot for kids. Mostly, that was because it had a personality. Behind all of the sensors, cameras and other hardware, there was a team of animators breathing life into it. Now, Anki is taking everything it learned from Cozmo and putting it in a bigger, more powerful home robot: Vector. And unlike Cozmo, you won't need a phone to play with it.
According to a report from Recode, Anki, the company responsible for making small AI-tuned robots with giant personalities is shutting down after it ran out of money. Recode says the company is forced to close its doors "after a new round of financing fell through at the last minute." For anyone who ponied up a couple hundred bucks to buy one of Anki's robots, it's a bummer. While the company confirmed its closure to Crunchbase, it hasn't said how it will handle support for existing models, and the news will surely affect future development of the platform. While Anki made a name for itself through its robots' Wall-E-like personalities and expressions, the underlying technology is equally impressive.
A new generation of robot toys with personalities powered by artificial intelligence could give kids more than just a holiday plaything, according to a University of Alberta researcher. Unlike previous electronic pets like the Furby and Tamagotchi that sparked holiday crazes in the late '90s, some of the robotic drones and droids on store shelves this season are packing genuine AI technology, said Anna Koop, director of applied machine learning at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. "They're doing face recognition, they respond to voice commands with reasonable consistency, and they have sophisticated processors," she said. An object of particular curiosity for Koop is Cozmo and its more advanced cousin, Vector. Developed by Anki, a company founded by three graduates of Carnegie Mellon's robotics Ph.D. program, the little tank-like robots are so full of personality that even Koop has to take an educated guess at just how intelligent their artificial intelligence is.
San Francisco-based robotics company Anki is launching today a new robot called Vector. It drives on little tank treads, has an expressive LCD face, and is constantly moving around, making beeps and bloops. Vector resembles Anki's previous robot, Cozmo, but is packed with more technology--and character. Anki says Vector is designed as a robot companion and helper for people at home. But don't expect much: The robot has a tiny voice and can barely push a coffee mug around.