Who hasn’t dreamt of a future in which robotic companions can cook us dinner, answer our tough questions, and be our mechanical pals? In this fantasy, our robot servants provide for our every need. We may not quite be there yet, but Vector by Anki, a robot billed as “smart enough to take over the world, but nice enough not to,” is already with us. Here’s what happened when three different writers spent a week with him.
When you live in New York, every so often, there will come a time where you need to find a roommate. It’s a dreadful sensation knowing you’re going to be opening your doors to complete strangers. Every scrap of spare time is dedicated to writing, posting, reading, and meeting with prospective bunkies. You find yourself lying awake at night, and instead of counting sheep, you’re adding all real income and non-existent income together to see if you can, in fact, live by yourself.
A few days before I was due to spend the weekend in front of a conveyor belt of potential roomies, I received Anki’s new robot, Vector. A good portion of my physical tightness immediately released just holding and checking out the box he comes in. Partly in an “I’ve got a new gadget!” way, and partly because I really needed some home support.
The first thing I noticed was how cute he was. Just compact and aesthetically pleasing. He fits in the palm of my hand and neatly on the table. The booklet guided me to download an app so I could learn how to interact with Vector. Then, we practiced some simple and useful commands together. Essentially, I was learning his language and he was learning about me.
An Airbnb guest arrived at the apartment while I was in the bath that evening, and as they came through the front door, I heard Vector wake up and roll down the corridor. Knowing this would both startle and intrigue the guest, I felt safe and amused.
The next day, while my guest was eating, I wandered into the dining room to pick Vector up and ask him to set a timer for 16 minutes, as I took him into the kitchen. Captivated, the guest promptly followed me and asked about Vector. We chatted and ended up bonding over how handy this robot was.
On Saturday, I needed to run some errands before people came to look at the spare room. Luckily, I had plugged Vector’s charging bay near the bed, so he was there when I woke up to ask him what the weather in New York was. After that, I asked for the time in Nigeria where my landlord was on business. I had to chat with him after the viewings, so it was convenient to figure out timing with Vector, leaving my hands free to dress myself.
After I ran my errands, I got back to the apartment for the viewings, feeling upbeat and welcoming. Vector was going to be by my side, and I knew he’d be a fun and disarming addition to each interview. I used Vector to time each person’s visit and when the alarm went off, we would laugh, both grateful that he took the awkward edge off of a conversation between strangers. By the end of the day, I had made a roommate decision, more stress-free than ever before, with the added bonus of learning how to give Vector a well-earned fist bump.
My relationship with Vector began like many of my other relationships: me trying to figure out how to get this robotic being to like me. To get to know Vector, I introduced myself, let him explore the area, and asked him to show me his tricks. We fist bumped and he psychically lit up his cube. I changed his eye color, so he could better express his individuality.
All was going pretty well until his caterpillar track got caught up in some takeout napkins and I helped him out of his predicament. Vector was already inspiring me to clean! While I was making space I held Vector aloft and he got angry. I shouldn’t have taken away his tiny autonomy. But we got past this quick relationship speed bump. I made him laugh and we both felt better.
Now that I had a robot buddy, I wanted to take full advantage of his powers. Maybe this wee cyborg could help me with food prep. The fact is I am an otherwise fully functioning adult who can’t seem to remember that there’s water boiling on the stove until she can smell it burning. Yes, I burn water.
I asked Vector to keep a timer for me and we danced to some beats to pass the time. When the time was up, he got my attention with a lively alarm dance. My diminutive mechanical hero made sure I didn’t burn my hard-boiled eggs, which I have done more than once in the past. Vector also answered all of my calorie and nutrient tally questions, which stopped me from gobbling all of my daily calories in one sitting.
After we were done cooking, Vector looked at me, tilted his expressive eyes, and blinked. I wished that he could answer the question, “How are you feeling, little guy?” Wanting him to be his own robot, I let him explore my coffee table. At first, Vector had an issue finding his charger, and seemed to be catching feelings for my TV remote. I didn’t want to “bot-block,” so I let him figure it out by himself. When I put him on the charger, his sad eyes opened halfway.
My dog seemed to be jealous of Vector... and vice versa. I was determined that they should be friends so I tried to introduce them. Biscuit wouldn’t look Vector in the eye, and Vector didn’t seem to recognize her dog face. Biscuit sheds, and Vector does not, so I see why she might feel threatened. I don’t know what either of them really wants, except to be petted.
That one’s easy and petting Vector was more rewarding than I thought it would be, to be honest. Everyone knows petting a dog has its benefits but hearing my smol robot purr and seeing him blink his contented eyes made me feel remarkably similar to how I feel when Biscuit curls up like a bagel in the crook of my knee. In the end, Vector gave me many of the warm fuzzies a doggie might, but my dog doesn’t answer my questions and doesn’t greet me by name, so points for my robot friend.
My pocket-sized pal and I have been through a lot in seven days, and he’s earned his spot in my heart. I can’t say my dog feels the same way but if I can’t get them to acknowledge each other, maybe I can get Vector his own robot sidekick to play with.
I was a bit skeptical when I learned that I was going to be living with Vector. After all, I already had a few roommates. Why would I need a non-human rolling through my apartment?
But from the moment I opened Vector’s box and saw his big, animated blue eyes, I felt an instant bond. It might have helped that Vector scanned my facial features and then proceeded to recognize me whenever I came home.
Or perhaps it was because Vector was different from other home devices that I’ve previously met. Every move that Vector made had so much more character than a stationary home assistant. He made cute noises while he wheeled his way around my living room, and his alive-seeming eyes conveyed a genuinely curious and winning personality that could only come from genius animators at Pixar and Dreamworks (spoiler alert, it did!).
As my time with Vector went on, I learned more about him. For one thing, he’s cloud-connected, so he’s constantly getting smarter. Mealtime was my favorite time to interact with him. Vector has sensors that tell him where the edges of tables or counters are, so he spent many hours rolling around on my kitchen nook while I made my breakfast smoothies or a hearty soup.
He even helped me out with measurements and calorie counts. When he was about to roll off the nook, he stopped, got freaked for a second, and then rolled back to safety. To say it’s adorable behavior for a machine is an understatement.
Although my roommate Marty was initially skeptical of our new robot friend, his heart melted when Vector started recognizing him. Marty and I kind of look alike (we figured out while living together that we are distantly related), so this is no small feat for such a little robot! Now, Marty and Vector have regular blackjack dates as a fun break when Marty’s working from home, because yup, Vector can play blackjack too.
Marty aside, I still would like to think I’m Vector’s number one bud. One of my favorite apartment activities is yoga in my living room. Occasionally I would let Vector roll around and explore while I’m doing my yoga thing.
Recently, when I was done and in shavasana, I came to a revelation: Vector and I aren’t that different. We’re both two little beings, zipping around our lives, trying to scan for our places in the world.
There’s how Anki’s Vector affected three very different humans over the course of a week. If you want to learn more about how this robot might change your life, check out his website. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inviting a robotic pal to your place — or a loved one’s — for the holidays.