Wednesday 12 February 2020

Getting Connected

Getting Connected with Vector
This is a set of notes on getting Vector up and running - so to speak. I had a tussle for the first few days and these notes may help others who find the learning curve a bit steep.

First point is to note that Vector's WiFi is weak. So all inital setup MUST be done within 10ft or so the WiFi hub. Once it's set up THEN you can see how far away you can go. The setup can be very confusing otherwise and may lead you to give up. Don't - the effort is worth it.

It's also important to realise the not so obvious fact that all basic user communication with Vector is via the Vector phone App and bluetooth. Setting up WiFi is done by sending instructions over this Bluetooth link, not directly.

If you've got a  pre-owned unit first clear out any saved setup information. With Vector on his charge base, do this as follows:
- double click top button
- lift/lower bucket
- lift Vector and move wheel tracks to select the 'reset' screen option
- lift/lower bucket to activate selected option

- lift/lower bucket
- lift Vector and move wheel tracks to select the 'exit' screen option
- lift/lower bucket to activate selected option
- hold top button 5secs to reset Vector
- wait for it to boot up. Make a note of his alphanumeric code eg. V5Y4

Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your smartphone then use the Vector App (downloaded of Google Play for Androids - I don't do Apple but I'm sure there's an Apple alternative!) and proceed with setup. You should be within 6ft or so of Vector.
- Set up the Bluetooth link
- Set up Vector's WiFi via the established Bluetooth link using the Vector App. You'll need the WiFi hub password of course.

It is very useful to have some sort of Network Analyser on your phone. You can scan the WiFi network to see Vector's DNS code and you can ping him to check he's there and get a feel for response times which indicates how good the WiFi connection is. You can gradually move Vector further from the WiFi hub and ping him to see where it starts to get intermittent or slow.

Having set him up on WiFi give him a reset and make sure he automatically connects again.
You can now start talking to him using:
Hey Vector (wait for his eyes to look top right and for ping) followed by the instruction. The Vector App will give you various things to try.
And if you use Windows, download the very user fiendly Vextor Explore program. You'll be able to make him do lots of things - more than on the phone app.

You will soon realise that most things you ask him to do cause him to refer back to the Anki Server via your WiFi link. That link needs to be solid. I wanted to use Vector in a location where my WiFi was not strong enough for him so I ended up connecting up a WiFi repeater that I happened to have spare. I connected my phone to this then set up Vector to use it too. All worked very well after that.
I moved my laptop over to the repeater too so that I could reliably transfer SDK generated programs to Vector.

Set up Alexa
To connect to Amazon's Alexa you will need a 6 alph-numeric code for your device. Get this by saying
Hey Vector ---- Connect to Alexa
then register via the Vector App using the code that Vector is displaying

To stop Vector wandering off you can use a proprietry Vector Space enclosure. However an IKEA tray works fine and costs a fraction the price.

And there is a Windows program called Vector Explorer which can be downloaded off This connects to Vector via WiFi (not Bluetooth like the phone App)  and provides lots of extra things you can do with Vector. It's a sort of halfway house between the phone App and using the SDK. It sends programs to Vector over WiFi in the same way the SDK does, but you don't have to write any software.

The lights on top of Vector (see below) show when he is communicating over the internet.

Meaning of top LEDs
3 red - no mic
3 orange - offline
3 twittering orange - communicating online
3 blue - listening for command

Having got this far you can check out all the standard features, enough for most people. However if you want to fully expolit the potential of this powerful device you need to get into the SDK - Software Development Kit. Which is another story.


An interesting observation is that there is a very limited amount built in to Vector's firmware, it's mainly downloaded software.  Comparable with a PC's Bios which is enhanced by layers of extra software. And it's interesting to compare with living creatures having a mix of DNA based instructions hardwired in, overlayed with information that is learned. This mix varies enormously for different creatures.Generally the less hardwired information a creature has, the smarter he becomes. Which bodes well for Vector's future - as long as Digital Dream Labs keep the server on!

The latest (Feb 2020) from Vector's new owners is that they intend to provide server software for users to install locally, thus keeping them going if the company folds. They also intend to open up the built-in software for developers to hack into. They figure that with these moves, little Vector could become  very big.