Robots are becoming more entwined in our everyday life. They’re working behind the scenes in factories (sometimes alongside human workers), serving coffee, working in hotels, composing music, and much more. But many of these robots are all work and no play. What if robots had personalities? What if they could get to know and appreciate their human companions? Robotics expert Grant Imahara visits San Francisco to meet with a company that is breaking the stereotypes of robots, and using AI to do it.
Anki, founded in 2010, creates robots with personalities and even feelings; robots that are more human. Vector, “The Good Robot,” will be available to consumers in early October, and he can tell you the weather, take photos, answer questions, and even challenge you to a game of blackjack. He has three of the five human senses: sight, hearing, and touch, he can also react to his surroundings, learn your habits, and adapt to it all. In addition to answering questions, he responds to commands: you can tell him to go to sleep or give you a fist bump, for example. Vector even knows when it’s time to charge his battery.
All of these capabilities, along with facial-recognition technology, add to the robot’s personality and humanness, making him feel more like a friend than an assistant.
Grant interviews Brad Neuman, the Technical Director for AI at Anki, about the technology inside Vector, how he learns, and if we’re getting closer to a conscious robot. He also gets some hands-on experience with Vector and interacts with him. Grant and Brad also talk about how robots like Vector can influence or advance society, and what’s next for Anki.
Andrew Stein, Technical Director of Computer Vision at Anki, talks to Grant about what Vector can detect (he can see you even if you’re not looking at him), and what else he might be able to “see” in the future, including other Vectors.
The company’s first consumer robot, Cozmo, is geared toward children. Like Vector, Cozmo gives out fist bumps, but he also likes to play games like Keepaway, Memory Match, and Quick Tap with his Cubes. Like humans, when he wins he’s happy, and when he loses he’s sad.