Family-friendly robot company Anki set to close

Media captionWATCH: Vector rolls around

Robotics company Anki is set to close down after failing to raise enough cash to continue day-to-day operations.

The US company sells small, family-friendly robots.

Cozmo and Vector are moveable digital assistants designed to interact with family members. They can respond to requests and take photos.

According to technology website Recode, staff were told that they would be laid off, by company chief executive Boris Sofman.

Anki said: “A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement.

“We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families and our management team continues to explore all options available.”

‘Expensive undertaking’

Anki had raised $182m since it was founded in 2010, according to Crunchbase.

But Piers Harding-Rolls, of IHS Markit, told BBC News that developing new products from scratch was an “expensive undertaking” that had left the company vulnerable.

“If the initial products fail to sell in large numbers, then without further investment it would be difficult for Anki to continue trading,” he said.

The robots are currently still available to buy online.

Vector is priced at £249 ($249) on Anki’s website.

Several Anki employees have posted on their LinkedIn profiles that they are now looking for work.

In March, another consumer robot company, called Jibo, also shut down, with the devices announcing their own demise to those who had purchased them.

Jibo had also been designed to assist families – its launch video showed it taking photos, reading stories, providing video chat, ordering takeaways and reminding family members of appointments and tasks.

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent

A couple of years ago, I took one of Anki’s Cozmo robots home.

It was cute, it was clever, batting its digital eyelashes at us and using its inbuilt facial recognition technology to recognise each of the family in turn.

We all loved Cozmo – except for the dog, which barked furiously at this tiny intruder that was obviously trying to replace her as the household pet.

But after an hour or so, the robot was put away and never activated again – we couldn’t work out what it was for.

And that sums up the existential crisis facing many consumer robots – they may be fun at first but they seem to lack a killer app.

Cozmo, Jibo, Buddy and Pepper are all great fun and fascinating demonstrations of what AI can achieve – but none of them has managed to convince us that they really deserve a place in our homes.

Family-friendly robot company Anki set to close