Cats Lead Development of AI Robots

Strike a pose; there's nothing to it. And THAT'S how cats are developing artificial intelligence technology that is helping design the robots in our future.

The scene played out at KitTea, a cat café in San Francisco. The models included Passion, Shiloh, Buffy, and Blinx, a handsome group of adoptable cats. They sprawled on pillows, strutted their stuff, or completely ignored the proceedings. Photographers scurried around, clicking away from every pawsible angle, and couldn't resist snapping more than a few jellybean photos. 

The humans in the room were engineers from Anki, a consumer robotics company that produces Vector, an interactive companion robot. They were taking a gazillion photos from a trio of tiny Vector robots set up for the job. Their goal was to grab as many shots as pawsible to help Vector learn how to detect the cats in people's homes. 

Vector began shipping in October. Powered by ai and advanced robotics, he's alive with personality and engaged by sight, sound, and touch. Like Alexa (which is built in), he can give you a weather update, answer questions or take a picture of you. You can also play with his small, light-up cube. Whether or not anyone is playing with him, according to a CNN reporter, he sounds like a cross between WALL-E, a guinea pig and a fart.

It takes a lot of data for Vector to learn how to complete all of his tasks. His front-facing camera allows him to recognize people and avoid bumping into stuff.  But to date, Victor hasn't learned how to spot pets. Anki's engineers are using artificial intelligence to teach Vector how to do this. A key (and sometimes tricky) part of making this work involves collecting data — in this case, that data includes photos of cats sitting, swiping, scratching and sniffing. If Reno were there, it would include peeing on anything you don't want to get peed on.

That's where the KitTea cats come in. "The key is getting data that is representative of what he will actually see when we deploy him into people's homes," said Andrew Stein, Anki's lead computer vision engineer and avowed Cat Guy. Stein believes these images will "tune" Anki's neural network, which Vector can then use to better detect furry friends.

The company, which is also working on dog detection, expects to roll out a feature that lets Vector perceive cats and dogs early next year. Vector has Amazon's Alexa built in, and you can snag one for less than $175 on Amazon


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About the Author ()

Mousebreath Magazine is an award-winning online magazine that celebrates cats and the cat-centric lifestyle. Editor Karen Nichols is a popular conference speaker and writer, whose current project is The Cat Scout Handbook. She is also the denmaster at

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  1. messymimi says:

    Mercy but there’s a lot more to programming this artificial intelligence than i ever thought about.


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