Anki’s Cozmo and Vector greeted me by name five months later
Just five months after Anki shuttered its doors, we launched two of its favorite robots, Cozmo and Vector, to see how both would work. Cozmo, the $180 robot that lost its parent when Anki shut down in May 2019, is still operating — while Vector, originally priced at $250, is also rolling around, with even more animation than its budget-friendly partner.
There are some issues that make both robots a little less nimble. But we particularly wanted to see if the apps would work on iOS 13.1, the most recent update from Apple for iPhones. The cute pint-sized robots are doing really well, with some small issues, with both Cozmo, which launched in 2017, and Vector, which appeared in 2018, chatty, and doing some of their tricks. Here's how they fared.
Anki, founded in 2010, shut down its doors about five months ago, unable to do find the investment funding to continue. While Anki's web site is still running, a pop-up appears when you try to click on the online shop, telling potential customers that they "are no longer manufacturing robots." Still, for those who have the robots — or choose to buy a used one online — Anki's closure hasn't meant the end of the Cozmo or Vector.
Both Cozmo and Vector's appeal centers around the personality baked inside each robot, with animated large eyes, a tendancy to purr or snore, and the ability to say your name. (Your dog or cat can't even do that.) The system is based on what Anki referred to as its Elemental platform, which supported its consumer toy division, and also included the popular Anki Overdrive, a car racing toy where players use their phones to drive vehicles on a track.
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Today, while Cozmo played with his favorite blocks, and even recognized his owner, he fell asleep repeatedly when the Cozmo app would close on our iPhone X. That's a very different experience than we had with Vector, which rolls around on its own, playing and discovering, even if the app on our phone wasn't open — and even when our phone was asleep. In fact, we couldn't get any video of Cozmo really working. We also found some of the games didn't launch well, such as Memory Match.
Vector had a bit more energy, and was actually able to link to smart assistant Amazon Alexa, which the robot was originally able to do at its launch — and still clearly can. We did have to jump through some new hoops to get Vector back and bouncy, including wiping the robot's data, re-training it and then connecting. That took some time. But nearly five months after Anki's shutdown, we found that the two robots were doing fairly well. In short, here's what we were — and were not — able to make happen with both Cozmo and Vector.
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Here's what we were able to get Cozmo to do:
- Connect to Wi-Fi
- Roll one of his cubes when we tapped into the app to launch that trick.
- Work on iOS 13.1.
- Run a face scan on a user and then saying the name correctly of the person facing Cozmo
- Recognize the end of a table and not roll over.
Here's what we couldn't get Cozmo to do:
- Play some games, like Memory Match
- Respond to us at all unless the app was open. Once we shifted to another app, Cozmo would turn off as shown in our video.
Here's what we were able to get Vector to do:
- Roll around and chirp to us, even without connecting to Wi-Fi
- Connect to Wi-Fi after some issues
- Work without needing the Vector app open
- Responded to "Hey Vector" immediately.
- Purr, as he used to, when the metal portion of his back was rubbed, as one would get a cat to respond
- Reacted with a mini-tantrum, slamming his arm against the table hard, many times if he saw a hand in front of him
- Recognize the end of a table, and stop itself before it ran over.
- React to blocks in front of him, even those from Cozmo's packaging.
- Scanning his environment on its own, a sound we recognized from months ago.
- Give us a fist bump
- Connect to Alexa
Here's what we couldn't get Vector to do:
- Give us an accurate weather reading. He told us the weather outside was 56ºF and cloudy, while in New York it's a steamy 78ºF this morning. When we asked Alexa, through Cozmo, we heard the correct weather.
- Connect easily to Wi-Fi nor Alexa without relaunching the robot and wiping its data.
That the two robots, particularly Vector, are still workable months after Anki shut down is something worth noting, given the number of digital toys that turn into bricks very quickly. In this case, those higher ticket prices for the Anki robot line, in particular Vector, were worth the investment.
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