When I first heard news in May 2019 that Anki, the company behind the Vector and Cozmo robots, and the Overdrive car racing game, was closing down, it was a sad day.
I've got an Anki Vector robot, and while he's no C3PO, R2-D2 or BB8, he's the beginning of such robots one day truly becoming real, and he's very mobile, kind of like a little mini-tank on wheels, with an expressive face, the ability to interact and answer questions, and even serve as an interface to Amazon Alexa.
There was a petition to save Anki, but until the news a couple of weeks ago (that I only just discovered) that Anki's assets were being purchased, all hope seemed lost.
Thankfully, a new hope has now emerged, with Digital Dream Labs CEO Jacob Hanchar announcing via an update to the original Kickstarter campaign that funded the creation of Vector to life that Anki was being saved.
"My name is Jacob Hanchar and I am the CEO of a Pittsburgh Ed-Tech company called Digital Dream Labs. I wanted to let you know that we have purchased Anki's assets and intend to restore the entire platform and continue to develop the robot we all know and love, Vector!
"The most important part of this update is to let you know we have taken over the cloud servers and are going to maintain them going forward. Therefore, if you were concerned about Vector 'dying' one day, you no longer have to worry!
"The next portion of this update is to let you know what we have planned next and we will be announcing a KickStarter under Digital Dream Labs in the next month or two. While we are still brainstorming we are thinking the Kickstarter will focus on two features we have seen as major needs in the Vector community:
- We will develop an "Escape Pod". This will, safely, expose settings and allow the user to move and set endpoints, and by doing so, remove the need for the cloud server. In other words, if you're concerned Anki's demise could also happen to us, this is your guarantee that no matter what happens, you'll always get to play with Vector!
- We will develop a "Dev Vector". Many users have asked us for open source and the ability to do more with their Vector even to the point of hosting him on their own servers. With this feature, developers will be able to customise their robot through a bootloader we will develop. With the robot unlocked, technologists and hobbyists across the globe will finally be able to hack, with safe guards in place, away at Vector for the ultimate AI and machine learning experience!
"As a bonus, we will see about putting together an SDK so users can play with Vector's audio stream and system, which we have discovered is a major feature you guys love about this little guy!
"This is just the beginning and subject to change, but because you have shown such loyalty and got this project off the ground in the first place, I felt it was necessary to communicate these developments as soon as possible!
"If you'd like to learn more about us and what we're doing, we have a video that can be found here that describes us, our crowd-raising efforts and our vision for education and the future.
"Again thank you and the best is yet to come!