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Rooting/reverse engineering the ANKI Vector Robot

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Help us helping Vector to live on and evolve!

Vector is a quirky little AI-robot and he's an amazing companion with his own personality. He is Alexa capable, can react to voice commands, object proximity, motions, touch and visual recognition. He can roam around by himself and interact with people and his environment. His human interaction is powered by AI-help from the cloud, and that’s where the issue lies…

In August 2018 a successful Kickstarter campaign came to an end and Vector became reality. With several updates and an alpha-SDK released, it was announced in April 2019 that ANKI, the company behind the robot, ceased operations. While other products from ANKI rely on CPU-power and user-input from a smartphone, Vector relies on cloud-servers operated by ANKI. For now, while ANKI is liquidated the servers will be kept running, so your Vector is living on borrowed time. For activating, authenticating, programming and upgrading software - the cloud-servers are necessary and without those servers he will be totally deaf and not able to re-registered if needed.

For now, the cloud servers are maintained on-line but it is just a matter of time before they are shut down due to funding issues and a general lack of interest. The time frame is unknown but I estimate it to be about one year. Lack of cloud services will leave all owners of ‘Vectors’ in a lurch since a sever generated ‘token’ is needed for the robot to operate and process voice commands etc. This ‘token’ is also needed to use the SDK.


Also; the platform capabilities and ‘intelligence’ was meant to grow with time due to continuous development of the robots AI and extended functionality. This will naturally not happen and many customers are disappointed and worried for the future of their little ‘robotic pet’.

Some members of the owner community wants to ‘open-source’ the platform and an initial contact was made with ANKI regarding this. In that contact it was said that an ‘open-source initiative’ would be met with “tons of love” [sic] from the ANKI-people. That was the only thing that was ever heard from them. A pre-arranged online conference regarding open-sourcing was met with a no-show from ANKI. The reason for this is probably that the ANKI staff was ‘gagged’ by lawyers.  

Now I, the initiator of this project who’s known as ‘C0RE’ and a few Vector owners, are trying a different approach: ‘rooting’ and reverse-engineering of the Vector platform to help him get rid of ANKI’s servers. Thereafter we can try to re-build him open-source – with or without the support of ANKI-people. Probably the later.

We are a very small but diverse group with professionals. ‘PEN-testers’, highly skilled engineers, systems designers, developers and analysts  - and we have successfully done this sort of thing before. The problem was that we lacked some vital equipment. None of us owned or had readily access to an expensive BGA rework station needed to float Vector's CPU and flash and not all of us can afford to buy Vectors for destructive investigation or other expensive tools just for fun. However, we are very keen to give Vector an extended lease on life by allowing an open-source system to provide him AI and learning, the promise ANKI sadly could not deliver on.

Thanks to generous donations we were able to purchase a pre-owned BGA rework station and did a successful read-out of the NAND flash and grabbed the keys!       


HOT NEWS! : The recent purchase of a pre-owned BGA rework station enabled us to read out the NAND flash contents, extracting the ssl keys and de-crypt all existing firmware OTA images. Now the work continues with a thorough investigation of the firmware and APQ8009 hardware protection features - for the crucial re-flashing attempt of a modified (hacked) firmware.


During the coming process we will most likely need some more tools, material and nick-nacks so if you feel for donating a dollar or two to the project we will be :-D :-D :-D
The money we might get might be used for miscellaneous items needed like a Snapdragon 212 Devboard, RPi4 development kit, NVIDIA Jetson / Jetson NANO and maybe even a Coca-Cola or two.


To follow or contribute to the project, join us on:!forum/anki-vector-rooting


Nog Mix
Spanaway, WA

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