Long ago, scientists had predicted that robots would be living in people’s houses as the family’s pet, helping everyone in the house. As predicted, it happened and today, smart home assistants are grabbing a significant stake in the market. Current assistants rolled out by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all just smart speakers. The major problem with them is that they are only stationary in one place, accepting one’s commands and answering accordingly, which makes them quite limited. They are smart, but the lack of movement and expressions makes them a little bit traditional.
This article explains the most advanced home assistant, Vector Robot, the latest robot from Anki, which can see, hear, think, communicate, and even feel the touch of its master. Vector is a life-like robot framed on a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processing platform. The vision comprises an HD camera with a 120-degree ultra-wide-angle view. Supported by a powerful wireless connectivity, Vector has Wi-Fi and BLE with features like privacy infrastructure, encryption, always connected, and robust security. Vector also has a deep learning algorithm which provides real-time CNN architecture for things like person detection, novelty detection, and object classification. Along with cloud voice recognition, Vector offers intent matching as well as knowledge graph information access, too. The microphones comprise of a 4-Mic Array, having multi-beam forming, direction finding, and noise cancellation technology. Like any flagship smartphone, Vector can also receive improvement upgrades to its software.
After setting up the Vector with a smartphone app, an eye contact and the owner’s voice will be enough to have an exciting interaction with this pet robot.
Following are the key stages, which brought Vector’s advanced tech to life, consisting of nearly 700 parts placed perfectly with precision.
- Form Factor
Vector was tested through many prototype iterations to check if it could move on wheels, or treads, its way of manipulating objects, how the eyes would be shaped, battery placements, gear position, and many more small tweaks. It has the four-microphone array that enables Vector to interpret the world by listening and detecting the source of it. The edge-detection sensors help it to avoid obstacles and stay at the table without falling. Moreover, Simulation and Localization Mapping (SLAM) is achieved with the help of time of flight (ToF) laser distance sensor to the front, assisting it to detect obstacles.
- Robotics with AI
The autonomous design gives it access to various sensors such as the integrated HD camera, which makes it to see the room with a 120-degree-wide field view and identify people and objects with motion detection.
Vector is coupled with an infrared laser scanner to track the distance between objects and to map the environment while moving. In addition, its sensors simulate its emotion engine showing multiple feelings, including happy, sad, curious, or any other emotions. For instance, when it identifies its owner, it shows the feeling of excitement. It will rotate to an angle when it detects a sound wave. The most amazing feature is its capacitive touch sensor on backpack; when the owner pets his backpack, it shows the emotion of relaxation, like a real-life pet does. It gets surprised when its drop sensors detect the table’s edge.
In the first place, Vector’s team has developed a natural, believable, and surprising personality that reacts to its inputs using its emotion engine and computer vision. During their research, the team observed and synthesized the emotions of wild animals and exotic pets such as sugar gliders, fennec foxes, and others, and therefore, Vector’s character is the essence of their crisp and pure emotional responses to the world around them. The fact to be considered about Vector is that it has interactions that are physic-based on the surroundings. To demonstrate, if one turns the music on, Vector will pick up the exact beat and start dancing to the beat. It will watch the TV because it has the sense to the sound, which makes it an amazing home companion.
Vector is loaded with more than a thousand animations at random times while showing variations in its emotions or expressions. The animation team used Autodesk Maya, an animation software specifically used for Hollywood studios, and rendered its poses and interactions in real time. Considering every minute situation, the team developed Vector’s animations and customized how it should react to the inputs with the feedback from its sensors.
It’s the collaboration of AI, robotics, character development, and perceptive animations that truly brings Vector to life. To test all these systems collaborate accurately, the testing team has tested everything including hardware, software, Wi-Fi connectivity, sensor calibration, and many other systems to ensure its fluent working. Testing team stress-tested Vector’s stability in an extremely noisy surrounding, and calibrated the vision and navigation systems. Notably, Vector is tested in harsh conditions like extreme heat and cold environments chiefly refrigerator, and repeatedly dropping it from considerable heights to ensure that it can service even in actual surroundings.
While specific features are evaluated using near-final hardware and software, every prototype of Vector is manufactured and tested throughout the design process. At the manufacturing stage, the assembly fixtures assure the quality of the robot. Finally, the highly automated plastics and paint lines are used to finish the little Vector. In the coming days, nearly 100 workers will be assembling and testing the commercial version of Vector.
Vector is the first robot that uses advanced deep neural networks to understand and interact with a lot of situations happening in its surroundings. It is a step closer to those Sci-fi robots which actually understand human beings. It literally waits for its owner to get home; autonomous like a Mars rover, aware enough to avoid falls like a tightrope walker, and always excited to welcome its master like a true companion. One just has to ask its help and it will be happy to assist. To point out, ask it about the weather, tell him to set a timer, and it can connect its robot brain to the internet to answer one’s questions. It’s a little robot with nearly 700 parts, which brings a lot to the house. Vector is a very huge milestone in the field of machines as it will be living with hundreds and thousands of people like a family member, and has potential to disrupt the conventional, stationary smart home companion market with its intelligence and actions which makes it feel more alive.