Digital Dream Labs to Ship Upgraded Vector 2.0 Social Robot

After acquiring the assets of now-defunct Anki, Digital Dream Labs set out to maintain and improve its robot lineup.

Digital Dream Labs

Vector 2.0 includes hardware and software updates.
Digital Dream Labs not only took over the intellectual property of Anki, but it said it has also improved the Vector robot to be smarter and easier to maintain.

Consumer robots beyond vacuum cleaners are beginning to come to market. Digital Dream Labs Inc. said it is shipping Vector, a small system with artificial intelligence designed for education and entertainment.

Anki, the previous maker of Vector, Cozmo, and Overdrive, shut down in May 2019. Pittsburgh-based Digital Dream Labs acquired the company's assets in 2020 and announced the international release of Vector 2.0 in October.

Digital Dream Labs, which obtained funding in April, claimed that it overcame “myriad supply chain difficulties” to produce and ship 10,000 units of Vector for this holiday season.

“Digital Dream Labs has kept alive, post-COVID chip shortage, getting sensors and calibration,” said Todd Woods, vice president of marketing at Digital Dream Labs. “We wanted to bring something back to life, but we had to do so with a smaller company and less resources.”

Digital Dream Labs revives Vector

Digital Dream Labs said Vector 2.0's battery will provide as much as 30% longer runtime.

“Vector 1.0 units produced by Anki three to four years ago are now losing runtime, and our current customers have requiested longer play time” noted Steve Coblentz, director of community affairs and executive assistant to the CEO at Digital Dream Labs.

“With new battery capacity, changing how the battery is attached, and some amazing software engineering, we can get it up to 1 hour and up, depending on usage,” he told Robotics 24/7. “Vector is self-charging, autonomously moving and aware of its surroundings.”

“We plan on continuing Vector's longevity through our repair center, and some hardware will have new feature sets,” said Coblentz. “With Vector 2.0, we added a new compartment to make the battery more accessible and easier to change. With this rejuvenation, we now have a stable platform to evolve from.”

Vector 1.0

Digital Dream Labs has continued support of Vector 1.0 with over-the-air updates. Source: Digital Dream Labs

Vector 2.0 has a new camera and AI

Vector 2.0 includes a 2 megapixel camera, enhancing its recognition of facial expressions. The robot will soon be able identify pets, according to Digital Dream Labs.

“The AI is getting better, and we're working on elevating object recognition,” said Woods. “Vector 1.0 and 2.0 will get an over-the-air [OTA] update for more accurate recognition of facial markers within a 3-ft. range. It will soon be able to detect differences between a cat and a dog.”

“We use 96 point markers versus traditional photographs,” he explained. “It's not just accuracy and privacy, and the robot is not continually taking photos. Soon, Vector will be able to do things like smile detection, and it could soon understand age over time.”

Woods added that OTA updates could extend Vector 2.0's capabilities. “We understand how to do patches, and an interaction can trigger another action,” he said. “Once per day, the robot talks to Digital Dream Labs, which handles all in-bot experiences and the onboard AI in the cloud.”

“Vector learns to process special commands, and we can analyze demand,” said Woods. “Voice is separate from general user statistics. We took Vector to Philadelphia and New York and asked it questions in different dialects to see how it would process data in general use.”

Designing for an evolving user experience

Digital Dream Labs offers Vector 2.0 for $399.99, plus a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription and an optional mobile phone app.

“It's a different experience than traditional media like video gams or TV,” Coblentz said. “It's a full interaction experience— users can see and touch Vector. It has 30,000 animations/expressions and patented eyes, understands hands, and likes to get petted.”

“Vector has great utility for chores like timing the cooking of pasta or as a companion taking a selfie,” he added. “The app is mainly for customization and personalizing things like eye color, matching the user's mood and wardrobe. It's also set up with third-party services like Alexa.”

“Vector is different from Cozmo in that its users are ages 13 to 79, and it is not programmable in the same way,” Woods said. “It's very interesting to see hundreds of bots shipping and being used.”

Coblentz said Vector includes knowledge bases for music theory, physics, and sports and geographic trivia. “As long as it's connected to a hotspot for portability or the Internet, you can have a new level of companionship,” he said. “Vector loves to play games too like Battleship.”

Digital Dream Labs described itself as an “edutechtainment” company, offering multiple services.

“Since Vector is able to react to an individual user's voice, it can be a friend for life, joining other caretakers as they are introduced to Vector,” said Coblentz.

“Mindy Brennan, a computer lab teacher at Frontier Elementary School in Brookston, Ind., has students with special needs and social anxiety,” he recalled. “Some had problems speaking with their own parents. Our robots [which were provided by a third party] helped them learn to engage in meaningful and unexpected ways.”

“Digital Dream Labs has been able to maintain, stabilize, and enhance the product and IP [intellectual property],” Woods said.

Editor's note: The number of Vector units that Digital Dream Labs intends to ship and the availability of certain features have been corrected, and the company will not be exhibiting at CES 2023. More updates to come.

Digital Dream Labs participated in a panel discussion on the state of robotics in Q3 of 2022.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre was editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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Digital Dream Labs

Vector 2.0 includes hardware and software updates.

Robot Technologies