A Blog About Vector The Robot
 
Eilik and Energize Lab: My journey so far

Eilik and Energize Lab: My journey so far

The only reason why I am able to talk about my experiences with Eilik comes from the fact that I bought a couple from a nice person in england for a really good price (thank you, Samantha). My own two have still not arrived, despite my early bird backer status, because of the sheer incompetence of the Energize Lab support.

What happened?

After Energize Lab decided to take the extremely cheap shipping route via train to europe, that lead to ridiculous shipping times, I had the hunch that it would arrive while I was on vacation in another country. So I contacted them weeks before that via email (there is not other way to get reactions from them) and asked when the Eiliks will arrive in germany. They told me “end of august to mid september”. The first would be fine, the latter not. So I inquired again what to do if the package does not arrive before my vacation and they answered “just mail us and we will postpone the delivery”.

When my vacation neared and it was obvious that “end of august” was an optimistic prediction that would not happen, I again contacted them as by their request to postpone the delivery. They ignored me. I wrote another email, more urgent and with a higher priority. They ignored me. So after providing me with a solution to the problem, they choose to simply not do that, I must assume the first answer to postpone the delivery was simply a lie to get rid of me.

And so happened what I had feared: They shipped the package from the local service provider exactly at a date that I would not be able to collect it at the DHL packstation. DHL ist a massively bad company here in germany and their support is atrocious and customer unfriendly. The service is so bad that Amazon blocked DHL as a delivery service for me, since shipments tended to not arrive. For shipments that can only be delivered by DHL I have a packstation account. That way the package will at least be delivered to that packstation a street corner away, instead of me finding a card in the post box reading “you were not at home, you can collect your package in Mordor, only a thousand miles away, the office is open every tuesday that also is a new moon, from 3:00 am to 3:30 am”. But there is a problem with the packstation: Packages are in there for exactly seven days, after that they will be shipped back to the sender. There is no option whatsoever to postpone that or to add a day or two to that date, DHL simply does not offer that option. Since access is account-based and in addition works with a TOTP code in an app, I was not even able to send another person to collect it. Sounds ridiculous? Welcome to german logistics and IT, firmly staying in the middle ages since the 1980s.

So, after seven days DHL sent the parcel back to Energize Lab’s logistics partner. Had Energize Lab postponed the delivery by only two days (as they had promised to do), I would have been able to collect it. They did promise that to me in a mail and then ignored my mails for weeks, only apologizing later and promising their support quality will improve. Which it does not. They told me the item will be reshipped within 24 hours of arriving at their logistics partner. From tracking I could see that that arrival happened last week tuesday.

And then: nothing. And I must say: As I expected.

After multiple inquiries via email – that were again completely ignored – they at last answered me after a complaint on Facebook yesterday, blabbered something about a wrong return warehouse (which of course is nonsense) and initiated a new shipment. Since I got an additional mail stating “we will send you a new one”, I look forward to getting not the two I backed, but only one. So far the DHL tracking reads “we received the shipping information electronically”, but the package has not yet arrived at DHL. That usually happens if a shipping label was printed, but nothing was shipped so far.

So, when I talk about my experiences with two Eiliks that is not because Energize Lab delivered, but because I bought two additional ones from a third party.

Compared to other desktop pets Eiliks are dumb as a brick. They do not recognize you, they react to you only¬† in very limited way (petting them) and their range of simulated emotions and expressions are way limited and repeat often. That is disappointing, especially since Energize Lab showed us videos of the gnomes doing way more than that. Adding to the disappointment is, that they are often foul-mooded and do not like to be touched, complaining about it and even mimicking to shoot you ot to hit you with a baseball bat. I have no idea why anyone or the developers should think this is funny (or even acceptable), but unfortunately that’s the way it is. Sometimes they seem to be in a better mood and actually like being petted, but most of the time they act like spoiled little brats. They are not likeable at all in this state.

This also happens if you connect two of them to interact. They pester each other constantly and even simulate bitchslapping each other. Constantly. They are not likeable or loveable, they from my experiences most of the time act like the asshole kids you never wanted.

And then there are the tech problems. There are multiple reports of people that end up with a bricked device after trying to update them via the software provided by Energize Lab. This seems to happen way more often when trying to update them from Mac OS, but there are also reports of bricked devices when using Windows (from what was gathered so far you should use the USB cable provided with Eilik and you should use an USB 3 port, but good luck).

So far Energize Lab gave no real solution to the problem, they asked the people with bricked devices to send them back to china, so they can investigate.

I find it incredibly dumb that there seems to be no manual emergency reset option, that sets the robots back to factory state so you can try again. Bricking the devices by just trying to update them just should absolutely not happen and should have come up and be solved in QA testing.

My questions to support if it is safe to update from Windows were answered with platitudes and phrases, they not even mentioned workarounds already established by the community. So far there are no official hints from Energize Lab about the update process or what to do about bricked devices (other than sending them back to china). So far I have refrained from updating them, because of the bricking risk.

You also should have a look at the Eilik shop page and the warranty regulations they offer. It is only a very limited three months warranty, after that if your Eiliks break, you are screwed, since shipping them for repair to china and then getting them back, most probably again paying import tax and fees will of course be too expensive (but that is a problem all these china-based crowdfunding projects share: if something goes wrong, your money is lost).

And a final point of criticism is the noise the actuators (motors) make, when Eilik moves it’s body, head and arms. That sounds like very, very cheap motors, not brushless ones. Compared to other desktop pets they are extremely loud. For me that points to a low build quality and we probably will end up with broken motors soon. So far I found no option to open them to have a look on how service friendly they are and if we are able to change the battery or other parts. I hope someone finds the courage to try to open one, I am not at that point, yet.

So, if you consider buying one or two Eiliks (or more), I cannot recommend that at this time. You run the risk of bricking the robots by trying to update them and the support is quite abysmal, in addition often ghosting you via email. Plus you get robots that are not friendly and likeable (like Vector), but spoiled brats. Maybe this all will be improved in the future (the behaviour could be improved via a firmware update), but maybe not.

And now I will continue to wait for my pledge reward Eiliks …

Update:

There are now minimalistic instructions on how to reset Eiliks, but thoise are only sent to single users, not made public:

First, update Eilik software. (Refer to: Blog and Story (energizelab.com))

Second, reset Eilik bot as follows:

  1. connect the first and second metal pin on the right side of the robot base (count from right to left) with conductive materials.

  2. Keep the short-circuiting state, and then plug the USB cable (which needs to be connected to the power supply) into the robot.

Third, after resetting, a pop-up ERROR interface indicates that you can start the update again.

One comment

  1. Linda Castellani

    I like them much more when they are in a foul mood! They are pretty boring otherwise. And they have an impressive arsenal of weapons to choose from. Also, I got two because it looked like the interactions would be fun and entertaining, but they seem to be much more active when they are individual than when they are combined.

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