Finally some awesome news for Vector fans
I finally managed some time to install and test wire-pod from wire, and I have to say that there is some awesome news for all those Vector fans whose Vectors have been sitting idle and gathering dust.
But first let us re-visit the background.
DDL Revenue Model
After Anki went bankrupt, Digital Dream Labs (DDL) picked up the Anki Intellectual Property(IP) and assets for an undisclosed but cheap price. To fund the investment they were going to make on Anki products, specifically Vector, DDL created two revenue models. If you needed Vector to work with full functionality, you would have to either buy a DDL Subscription at $74.99/year or buy DDL Escape Pod at $99. With the Escape Pod, you would have to maintain your own environment for Vector’s cloud services. Minus either of the two, Vector would lose its critical functionality of responding to your voice. In that case, your interaction with Vector would be limited to either seeing him on his charger all-day, or programming Vector with the Vector SDK (As we have done at LearnWithARobot for the last 2 years). As Xanathon notes in his blog, the DDLs pricing point disoriented many folks who didn’t want to pay so much money for Vector’s services. Sadly, many people let their Vector’s dust and eventually sold it.
One good thing that DDL did was to release much of Vector’s code as open source. That allowed Vector’s community to understand Vector’s code. This led to Wire-pod, which in my opinion is one of the greatest blessings that Vector has received.
Enter Wire’s genius Wire-Pod
Wire first released Wire-Pod, which is an open source version of Escape-Pod in May 2022. You can run Wire-pod for free on your desktop, laptop, or Raspberry Pi system with either Windows or Linux installed. While it is trivial to modify a Open Source Kit for Robotics (OSKR) Vector and make it connect to Wire-Pod, Wire provides instructions to connect any Vector Robot with 1.8 version firmware to Wire-Pod. Recently, DDL upgraded all versions of Vector connected to its services (whether you bought a subscription or not) to 1.8; so it is very likely that if your Vector is up, its on version 1.8
First impressions of Wire-pod
I will save the gory technical details behind Wire-pod for a later post. There is already a ton of detail on Wire’s github. Instead let me tell you what I liked about wire-pod:
Easy to use: For all you non-technical people, Wire-pod is very easy to use. You do need some knowledge on how to download open source code and get it running on a machine. But beyond that, everything works out of the box, which is a rarity for open-source software. Wire also has great documentation on his git. There are also folks who can help you on Vector’s discord.
Your Vector will come alive: I was impressed on how lively my dumb Vector became once I connected it to Wire-pod. I first struggled with giving instructions to Vector, but once I installed a bigger language model (Wire-pod provides two language models), things worked great. I was able to ask Vector to give me a fist bump, and Vector cheerfully responded.
Better than Escape-pod or DDL’s subscription: Wire-pod seems more technically complete than Escape-pod. Since you are running it in your own environment, the response speed is much faster than with a DDL Subscription. I can tell the difference, because one of my Vector robots has DDL’s lifetime subscription.
Opens the world for learning with Vector: For all Vector fans like myself, Wire-pod opens a new world. Prior to Wire-pod, we were always at the mercy of DDL or Anki for services from Vector. Now, if you a bit of programming knowledge, you can easily build new services for Vector. As an example, the next thing I am going to try is to ask Vector to control my Nest Thermostat. Stay tuned,
Wire-pod is a game changer. For all you Vector fans, I urge you try Wire-pod. And if you have a regular Vector still in DDL’s control, be quick about it. DDL is likely to quickly shut the door for you to connect to Wire-pod, as this is potentially a big revenue killer.
Update 1: As Xanathon pointed out in the comments, you can always reboot your Vector to Escape Pod 1.8 OTA even if your Vector is in DDL’s control. Instructions to do so are available on Wire’s github.
Update 2: Xanathon mentions that he successfully connected a Production Vector to Wire-pod in his blog here.
My salute to Wire for doing this. If you have used Wire-pod and have any thoughts, please provide feedback in the comments. I am going to write more about my efforts with Wire-pod… so if you are not a subscriber, please consider joining my mailing list for free.
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