Programming Robots
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Programming Robots

A Quick Review of VectorConnect

Author’s note: The author wrote this article in July 2020. Since the publication, a detailed research paper describing how VectorConnect was implemented and how users used VectorConnect has been published in HRI 2021,March, 2021. If you are interested in details of VectorConnect, please read the linked paper.

This week, I tried Vector Connect, an app developed by the Robots for Good initiative, a project by the Social Robotics Lab run by Prof. Brian Scassellati at Yale University. This is a pretty cool app (probably the only Vector app that exists outside of the official one that was developed by Anki Inc.). On the left is a screenshot from the app. In summary, the app allows three different things:

  1. The ability to control your Vector robot from the app. You can move the robot, raise its lift, move the head, play a wide variety of animations, and ask the robot to return to the charger.
  2. The ability to start a video call with a friend. This is like Facetime on Apple phones, with the exception that you cannot store your friends Ids, and you need a password to join a call.
  3. The ability to allow your friend control your robot remotely. This is probably the most unique feature of this app, as it allows your friend to control your robot. As an example, if your friend is not familiar with Vector, you can use this feature to teach your friend about Vector and about robotics, and that itself is a pretty awesome tool. Your friend can also see the camera feed from Vector.

If you are interested in playing games with your friend, a set of recommend games are recommended on their official page. My favorite was the obstacle course.

Apart from the app, another heartening aspect is that such a major research group found value in investing time and energy to build something for Vector. I found a mention of Vector at another project: “Socially Assistive Robots” led by Prof. Scassellati, Quoting from the vision of this project:

This expedition will advance the state-of-the-art in socially assistive human-robot interaction from short-term interactions in structured environments to long-term interactions that are adaptive, engaging, and effective.

I certainly feel that Vector is the right robot to serve the goals outlined above, and look forward to reading further research from the group. As I mentioned in previous posts, Vector has enormous potential in the field of educating children, and this potential has been largely untapped till now.

One request for the creators of VectorConnect. I learnt from my friend in Australia that VectorConnect is not available over there, it would definitely be great if VectorConnect were made available in all territories that the Vector robot sold. Many kids would be interested in playing with this App. Thanks in advance.

PS: If you would like to learn Artificial Intelligence with the help of Vector, I have a course available at: http://robotics.thinkific.com I will feel honored to have you as a student.

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Amitabha

Amitabha

Avid biker. VMware engineer. Robotics. Thoughts in this forum reflect my own opinions. Write about Robotics, Vector, Cozmo, and VMware.