We reported last June Anki already had a prototype of its next consumer robot prior to shutting down. The Robot Report has learned there were multiple products in the works, and none of them are what you’d expect.
First, meet Bingo, a security robot with a German Shepherd-inspired design. Anki was working on two versions of Bingo: a small consumer version called Mini Bingo for home security applications and a more robust, rugged version for commercial and military security applications.
The consumer version was designed to roam around the house, go to recharge its battery, and then continue its patrol. If something was out of place, it would send you an alert. It would even bark like a real dog. Think of the Mini Bingo as a robotic guard dog, of sorts. The larger model was about four-feet tall and had capabilities including thermal imaging, room scanning, mapping, facial recognition and more.
The Robot Report broke the news about edtech startup Digital Dream Labs acquiring Anki’s IP assets in December 2019. H. Jacob Hanchar, Founder of Digital Dreams Labs, told us home security-type functions are some of the most requested features customers want added to Vector, the second-generation consumer robot from Anki.
“People just connect with [Vector] and begin to trust it,” he said. “It’s an amazing level of trust and emotional connection they give this robot. It’s unlike any other emotional connection I’ve ever seen in robotics.”
However, Hanchar said Digital Dreams Labs likely won’t pursue Bingo as new products. The larger version seems like “hardcore DARPA stuff” and the functionality of Mini Bingo could be embedded into Vector. If the latter happens, Hanchar said it won’t be until 2021.
“We’ll think about the security features inside of Bingo, what people are asking for and enhance Vector with these features,” Hanchar said. “Vector’s internal workings are sophisticated enough to handle these features, so I don’t see a need to build a new robot.”
Stripped down Anki Cozmo 2.0
Anki was also working on Project Whiskey, which was a stripped down Cozmo 2.0. It was designed to be sold as a toy rather than a robot.
“It is less sophisticated, there isn’t as much memory, the plastic is thinner, the components are lighter, and it can’t do as much enhanced computing as the current version of Cozmo can,” Hanchar said. “We will always consider how to cut costs, but the demand is fever pitched for Cozmo as it was. So we probably won’t consider this.”
Anki raised more than $200 million and had $325-plus million in revenue since it was founded in 2010. However, as this teardown of Vector points out, the manufacturing process for Vector was quite complex, unsustainable, and likely contributed to Anki’s shut down.
Hanchar said Anki was gearing up for a $1 billion IPO and caused the company seemingly lose its focus.
“Toward the end, they were throwing everything they could at the wall,” he said. They were hurrying to show they were a full suite robotics company. Things were very hurried, very rushed. A lot of it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Digital Dream Labs is planning to revive and manufacture more units for each Anki product line: Overdrive, Cozmo, Vector. The company has also discussed a subscription-based model that could reduce the upfront cost of the robots and offer different levels of functionality to customers.
Digital Dream Labs also launched a kickstarter to enable users to take Vector off of his external servers while still remaining fully functional. The campaign surpassed its $75,000 goal in less than one day and had raised more than $120,000 at press time.
“The Kickstarter goal was the bare minimum to fund the project,” Hanchar said. “The more we raise, the faster we can work. Vector’s updates will be released in the Fall.’
Hanchar said manufacturing of Cozmo units is on track to begin in June with the product “hopefully on the shelves for Christmas.” To meet at these promises and deadlines, Hanchar said Digital Dream Labs plans to hire 30-plus employees this year.