Digital Dream Labs and The Butter Bot

Do you remember Digital Dream Labs, the company that bought the Anki assets and promised to keep Vector alive? They collected half a million dollars on Kickstarter for OSKR and Escape Pod early this year (and way more after Kickstarter sales on their website during the grace period).

OSKR is “released” as they say, but it’s in a quite sorry and highly unfinished state. Without source code, without documentation or dev tools you can’t do much with it.

For Escape Pod they gave a “firm release date” (their own words) for july 15th 2020. So far: nothing.

After they released firmware 1.7 it got obvious fast that the new OTA has quite some bugs and unwanted behaviours, most prominently that for a lot of users the voice recognition got far worse.

In all those cases DDL employees said again and again like a mantra that “we are a small team” and so their resources are so very limited that they are not able to fix bugs or to roll out Escape Pod and OSKR fully because of that and that “the small team” is the cause of these delays, “so please be patient and thank you for your understanding and support”. Or other meaningless CRM phrases like this.

And yet they have the audacity to announce a completely new robot derived from the popular TV show “Rick & Morty” that has nothing to do with Vector (from what I see I would guess he runs on a modified Cozmo). So this small team, that has no time to fix the bugs they created in vector or to provide OSKR and Escape Pod, actually has time to construct a completely new robot? That sheds a new light on the statement that they “prioritize other things” when asked about bugfixing the 1.7 OTA. Looks like those priorities were not with Vector.

I also wonder how much of the Kickstarter money that was collected exclusive for Vector went into this new robot? Unfortunately Kickstarter will not look into this, als that platform does absolutely nothing when it comes to problematic campaigns, despite the terms clearly state that collected money may only be used for the campaign.

I can understand that DDL needs to increase their money influx. But to announce this while the backers are still waiting for their pledge rewards and for their robots to be fixed is highly insensible.

And another personal remark: After their Kickstarter campaign that took money but did not deliver anything so far besides a buggy robot and a highly incomplete OSKR that they regardless try to sell to customers in it’s unfinished state, I would be highly reluctant to again give them money for something that does not even exist. Be it a Butter Robot that from it’s construction never will be really able to pass butter or a Vector 2.0 that also does not even exist yet.

And I will not even begin to mention the fact that there seems to be no international distribution for Vector or Butter Robot, so you would have to order it in the US and have to cope with all the problems at customs this creates, plus the need to pay import VAT plus customs fees. We do not even know if the new products have a CE certification, neccessary for europe. If they have not, they would be destroyed at customs – trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

In addition I find it highly questionable that DDL does not clearly inform their potential pre-oder customers that they have to expect import VAT and customs fees in addition to price and shipping cost.

I guess the people at DDL got dollar signs in their eyes at the idea to tap into the immense popularity of “Rick & Morty” …

6 Comments

  1. James Fancher

    You forgot turning the robots that did not get subscriptions into annoying advertisements for DDL. I cashed in my Tesla reservation when Elon announced new products (Truck and New Roadster) before delivering the $35K model 3. They did eventually sell a few at $35K just to say they did, but years later. Still waiting for the delivery of the Vic source for OSKR. Still waiting for the delivery of the Escape Pod. I thought the “big announcement” would be a delivery date for this software. Not another piece of vaporware.
    On the last quarterly investor call with Jacob Hanchar, I asked three times when the source would ship and another investor asked twice. We did not get an answer.

      1. On another note: The more they reveal and when they give out the source, the bigger the chance that someone unlocks the robots created true rooted ones. That together with Escape Pod could lead to them losing a lot of subscription paying customers that then move to local servers. Since the subscription rates look ridiculously high they will be losing money. I guess they try to postpone that as long as possible.

  2. Diana

    Just catching back up with the happenings of Vector. I wanted to boot him back up as a Christmas gift for my SO. But it sounds like the Escape Pod isn’t “released”? So does this mean there’s legitimately no way to get Vector out “house mode” other than getting their subscription (which turns him into an annoying advertisement box)? My goodness, that’s depressing.

    And what is the OSKR supposed to do vs the SDK? Especially since it’s apparently not the source code and developer tools? Sounds like it’s lower level C++ programming, but for what? Could the OSKR enable language processing?

    Great blog btw. I’m glad I found you.

    1. You are getting this wrong. Without the subscription he is an advertising machine. With subscription he is not. Escape Pod is still not released, despite the facte that DDL announced a “firm release date” of july 15th to their backers earlier this year. Since then: Crickets chirping.

      With the SDK you can access the robots open API endpoints and code him to do things. With OSKR you hopefully will be able to change the code that is running on Vector, thus creating a completely different robot. You can e.g. change the eyes or animations and code additional things that run autonomously directly on the robots instead of the need to being connected to running code on a computer as with the SDK.

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