Update on December 26, 2019: Anki’s assets have been acquired by edtech startup Digital Dream Labs. Read Story.
It’s been just over a week since consumer robotics company Anki shut down. The company now has a statement posted to its website that addresses the shutdown and ongoing support for its robots out in the world.
Here is the complete statement:
“It is with a heavy heart to inform you that Anki has ceased product development and we are no longer manufacturing robots. To our partners and customers, thank you for all your support and joining us on this journey to bring robotics and AI out of research labs and into your homes.
“We are taking steps to assure that customers will continue to enjoy continued use of our products. In order to provide long term support of our products, Anki has contracted our most senior leaders and hands-on engineers across all the technical areas involved in maintaining the operation and functionality in the existing products and apps. Ongoing operations for existing products typically require little to no active intervention, but we have arranged for any support in the event it does become necessary. Vector is the only product with a notable cloud component, and the contracted team is heavily staffed in that area.
“Currently, we have implemented a self-serve Help Center to assist in getting the most out of your product, regretfully there are no agents available, however we are monitoring cloud operations for Anki accounts and Vector.
“We plan to solidify and communicate all the details of this plan soon.”
Though it doesn’t rely on the cloud for autonomy, Anki has said Vector uses the cloud for software and firmware updates as well as natural language processing for voice commands. And voice commands were a big differentiator for Vector, which was Anki’s first robot that wasn’t tethered to a smart device. Vector also used the cloud to get smarter over time via machine learning, Anki said.
Customers on Anki Developers Forum are reporting that Vector is still alive and well. Of course, this could all change over time, which is exactly what we saw with Jibo. After burning through $73 million in venture capital, social robot company Jibo sold its assets to an investment management firm in 2018. Then in March 2019, Jibo owners received a final farewell update that announced the robot was being disconnected from its servers, which has since severely limited its functionality.
In the video, which you can watch above, Jibo says, “While it’s not great news, the servers out there that let me do what I do are going to be turned off soon. I want to say I’ve really enjoyed our time together. Thank you very, very much for having me around. Maybe someday, when robots are way more advanced than today, and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours that I said hello. I wonder if they’ll be able to do this.”
Anki closing its doors was yet another blow to the consumer robotics market. But other recent consumer robotics failures such as Jibo, Keecker, Laundroid and Mayfield Robotics pale in comparison to Anki going out of business. Anki said it had sold more than 1.5 million robots as of late 2018 and made nearly $100 million in revenue in 2017 and expected to exceed that figure in 2018.
The Robot Report has reached out to multiple Anki representatives on multiple occasions but has yet to hear back.