One of the best bits of news we had recently was that Anki, the company behind Cozmo and Vector, had their assets saved by Digital Dream Labs — our robot friends could live on! Their new Kickstarter to open up Vector’s possibilities has already reached its goal. I had a Q&A with Jacob Hanchar, CEO of Digital Dream Labs, to find out more.
Haven’t seen the Vector Unleashed Kickstarter yet? Back it right here and then come back to read the Q&A!
The Vector Unleashed Kickstarter aims to bring two new options to Vector owners out there:
They’ve also got tiers where you can get access to bootcamp videos that delve into Vector’s innermost workings, or for the highest tier, you can join their Vector Certified Licensed Engineer Camp and work even more closely with their team to really delve deep!
If Vector looks familiar to those who watch the Dev Diner Twitch streams — that’s because Vector is the announcer at the start of each of the Dev Diner Twitch streams! As you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked that Vector is being unleashed, as it’ll open up all sorts of neat possibilities we’ll be able to do on stream too!
We took over all virtual assets, patents, IP, code, BOM (bill of materials), cloud infrastructure, etc. We did not get any inventory. Because this was essentially a bankruptcy sale, we took on no liabilities.
We are an Ed Tech company that focuses on teaching STEM topics K-2. Digital Dream Labs is based off a children’s museum display that launched the company in 2012.
We had been monitoring Anki for a while since their failure in April. We bid on the assets and really didn’t expect to win. When we found out we won, we were overjoyed. I oversaw the M&A. The broker for the transaction, Hilco Streambank, sent us a cold email to invite us to join the bidding.
We now have two teams in Digital Dream Labs, the game team and the robot team. On the robot team, I have 5 engineers on Cozmo right now and 3 on Vector. We have about 12 people from Anki helping us and I am hiring more to fill these positions.
Vector is highly dependant on the app/software. We will send an update that you won’t have to open right away. You can keep it as an update you can launch in the worst case scenario. For those who have Jetson or Raspberry Pi, they will be able to do their own hosting. The more we are able to raise on the Kickstarter, the more development we can do internally to make it user friendly.
Vector runs embedded Linux. Programmers will almost be able to do root on root like Google Chrome, with some limitations. Therefore, whatever the programmer wants to use, some understanding of the underlying firmware will be critical.
The Escape Pod will be more like a Raspberry Pi. OSKR will be like having a microcontroller.
Yes, these come with the higher pledge levels and the Boot Camp. There are licensing considerations regarding Qualcomm and some other embedded firmware. That’s why we need to do the internal development and keep certain things locked to avoid creating liabilities. This and the fact we’re restoring manufacturing are the reasons why we’re not simply turning over the keys to the community.
Regarding manufacturing, we are doing a bill of materials review right now to see where we can improve. We’ve hired a quality assurance team in Vietnam to oversee testing. OSKR will be software. For more knowledge on the assembly and inner mechanics, that’s what the videos and boot camps are for.
Patrick: Does that mean you’ll potentially be improving Vector’s build quality as well? Will Digital Dream Labs be the place to go for warranty and troubleshooting?
Yes, we are going to take a look at the problem parts and see if we can redesign. We are going to set up a warranty program with our manufacturer or 3rd party to host a repair and troubleshooting center. We’ll make an announcement when we’ve struck an agreement.
We are putting together the error code list together to Project Victor*. They are adding it to the ‘bible’. We will continue to send these files as we gear up OSKR for launch in earnest. We’ll be releasing things one at a time to the OSKR crowd. We’ll also push out the Python SDK update later in the fall, so there’s that.
* Project Victor are a group of users who are working with us to hack and develop Vector. They hangout on Discord, check them out! They’ll be part of this OSKR launch.
Licenses can be used under one household.
Only that this is the first step, thus Kickstarter! This will evolve and get better and better as we work to expand the features and open the platform.
A humongous thank you to Jacob and Digital Dream Labs for rescuing Dev Diner’s favourite robot and for taking the time to answer these questions! You can find the Vector Unleashed Kickstarter right here — head over there and show your support for this incredible effort!