If Vector is anything to go by, humans need not fear the rise of the machines for some time.
Anki’s Vector is billed as being a robot “full of emotion”. But after meeting him earlier this week this reporter felt no connection and was left feeling slightly uneasy about privacy concerns.
Size-wise, Vector falls somewhere between an apple and a grapefruit. It’s powered by a Qualcomm processor, cloud-connected via Wi-Fi, and can take photos with its 120-degree HD camera.
After you introduce yourself, Vector registers your face and starts calling your name when he spots you.
At this stage, Anki promises not to be storing any voice or video information in its cloud.
But after it took a photo of your correspondent, the question had to be asked: Is our data really safe with these new technologies?
Watch the train-wreck, or robot-wreck, interview:
Deakin University Cyber Security Research Institute professor Matt Warren told The New Daily this type of technology was threatening to move society into a “big brother” era.
He said facial recognition technology in particular raised ethical and security issues.
“If you look at China’s social credit system which is linked to CCTV, they base their credit scoring intel on this technology and that’s really concerning,” Professor Warren said.
“We need to start looking at amending our Privacy Act to deal with the implications of new technologies and without the proper governance processes in place, there’s no consequences.”
The palm-sized Vector robot is sitting on its charging dock, having a nap.
On saying “Hey, Vector”, the robot begins moving and approaches towards the speaker. It’s square-shaped eyes light up with a resemblance to Pixar’s Wall-E robot.
If you ask Vector to come and find you, he uses input from his four microphones to figure out the direction your voice is coming from.
A coloured IPS screen shows Vector’s expressions, query results and animations that reflect his “mood”.
On its way to me, I’m impressed by its ability to detect objects and move around them with its sensors.
Like other virtual assistants, Vector responds to voice queries in his computerised voice.
We ask Vector a some general questions such, as Australia’s population? It answers, even though it’s way off, saying its 21,515,754, when it just hit 25,000,000 on Monday.
At this stage it appears Vector can’t handle more complex requests, it goes all shy-bot, and can’t tell us if it is friends with Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.
Anki’s chief revenue officer Mark Bradley, and vice-president of production Charlie Hite, reassured me that Vector was in its demo stage and the final product would be much more responsive.
Bradley said Vector would improve over time with over-the-air updates and new features added on a regular basis.
Do you need a home robot?
Don’t expect Vector to clean the house or make you a cup of coffee, those types of robots will set you back thousands, with Amazon rumoured to be working on a live-in robot called Vesta.
The truth is Anki’s latest creation looks an awful lot like its 2016 Cozmo robot for children.
When it launched in October 2016, the robot was billed as having “a mind of his own”. But it didn’t. All the functionalities were done by a smartphone.
And this is where Vector is different. All the actions and processing are done by the robot itself now.
The robot is touted as being eager to interact with humans and help us to be more productive by assisting with simple tasks, such as setting a timer to prevent overcooked meals.
But, Apple’s Siri has the exact same functionality, so there’s nothing revolutionary about this.
Even though Vector is on the more affordable-end of the robot spectrum, retailing at $449, and still has some growing up to do, consider it a portent and prophet of things to come.
Anki’s Vector is available at a discount for those who pre-order from JB HiFi at $399 until September 7. Its official release date will on October 12.