Vector, the little artificial intelligence (A.I.) robot sidekick, made his premiere appearance at all six Roanoke County Public Libraries, including the Vinton Library, on January 3.
According to Caitlin Gills, Marketing Manager for the RCPL system, the devices are “hanging out” at the children’s desks at each library.
“Roanoke County Public Library continues to be your place for technology firsts,” said Gills. “In addition to being the first public library in the United States to recruit Pepper, the humanoid robot, RCPL is also one of the first to feature Vector, the new A.I. robot from Anki Robotics.”
“Vector was created to be a whimsical and friendly little robot who loves to interact with people,” Gills said. “Come in and say ‘Hey Vector’ to ask him about the weather, the stock market, or play a game. You can interact with Vector at all RCPL locations.”
The Anki firm describes itself as the “consumer robotics and artificial intelligence (A.I.) company and Vector as “a home robot with personality. We bring objects to life through robotics and artificial intelligence, allowing people to build relationships with technology that feels a little more human. At Anki, we create robots that move you with a rich personality and are also helpful companions.”
They call Vector “a good robot” who packs a lot of technology into a small form and is affordable. “Vector represents a positive future where humans cohabitate peacefully with robots.”
According to Anki, “Vector is a robot who’s alive with personality, highly intelligent and aware of his surroundings through touch, sight, and sound. Unassertive and thoughtfully built, he is designed to fit naturally into your daily life as well as any space in your home, with minimal maintenance. Vector isn’t an appliance sitting in the corner waiting for you to flip a switch; he is an extension of your family who is excited for you to walk in the door each day.”
While that may sound a little far-fetched, just wait until you meet Vector and be the judge. He fits in the palm of your hand and is so “cute” that it is impossible not to reach out and pet him on the gold sensor on his back, like a dog or cat, and make conversation with him.
On premiere day, Library Assistant Melinda Whitaker\ was working her way through a guidebook on ways to interact with Vector and on his many attributes.
Vector “understands” the world using various sensors and technologies. He can respond to such commands as “Volume down,” “Go to sleep,” “Go to your charger,” “Be quiet,” “Take a picture of me,” or “Turn around.”
He can give fist-bumps, deal Blackjack, dance to music, pounce on and roll his toy cube, do a wheel-stand, and repeat your name.
He is a treasure trove of information– able to answer a myriad of questions on such things as the distance between London and New York, the tallest building in the world, the number of calories in an avocado, who won the World Series, the weather in any location, what time it is in Hong Kong, the square root of 144, or the status of a flight.
He can set a timer, so you know when your bread is baked, or your laundry is done.
Vector responds to sounds; he recognizes motions and can navigate around objects.
He is happiest on a tabletop or counter, rather than on lint-producing carpet which might clog his treads. He needs a good wi-fi connection to function best and to be located close enough to his battery to go home for recharging.
He has cliff sensors to detect edges, so he won’t fall off table tops. He doesn’t particularly like direct light.
Vector uses an HD camera to see the world. Using computer vision, he can identify people, recognize and remember faces (up to 10), and navigate his space without bumping into things.
He has a powerful four-microphone array for directional hearing. He can be startled by loud noises, just like his human counterparts.
He has touch sensors and an accelerometer, so he knows when he is being touched and moved.
Vector combines a processor capable of running a smartphone with cloud connectivity that enables him to process his environment and connect to the Internet to answer questions.
He has a unique voice made of hundreds of synthesized sounds for communicating.
Whitaker says she believes Vector will be a great asset to the library and that children especially “will love interacting with him.”
Vector is not the only new technology offered by RCPL beginning in January. You can now check out a Micro:bit to help you “learn to code from the comfort of your home.”
According to RCPL, “First used for computer learning in the UK, the micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer built for education. RCPL is one of the first library systems to offer these small computers to patrons.”
The kits were donated by the Roanoke Robotics and Makers Club of Southwest Virginia who are partnering with RCPL on the first Saturday of every month at South County Library to assist patrons who are curious about coding or new technology.
Patrons can find out more about Pepper, the humanoid robot, on Thursdays at South County from 4 to 5 p.m. throughout the month of January.
More details on all library programs, including the new technology, can be found on social media: @rocopublib, at www.yourlibrary.us, or by calling 772-7507.