In late 2016, San Francisco-based robotics company Anki released Cozmo, a robotic toy brimming with personality. The little guy looked like something out of Wall-E, with its curious animation and expressive digital eyes. Now, Anki's back at it with a new tiny robot named Vector that clearly shares Cozmo's DNA, but promises more functionality.

Vector does look like a second-generation Cozmo: same general shape, same tank-like treads, same cute robot facial expressions — but everything is a bit more refined. Functionally, Vector is a significant improvement over its older brother. Whereas Cozmo required a connection to a phone or tablet through Wi-Fi to do much of anything, Vector's smarts are built in. It also has microphones to pick up sounds and audio commands; you can ask it to answer questions, set timers, take photos, and even play some simple games.

You can pre-order Vector on Kickstarter; units will be available this fall. Why Kickstarter for a product that's already developed and has started production? Well, it's not really clear. Anki says it wants to "put Vector in the hands of Kickstarter’s incredible Design & Tech community" and that Kickstarter is "the best way for us to directly engage with this bleeding-edge tech audience, for whom Vector was specially designed."  Whatever the practical reason, the campaign has been underway since yesterday and has already reached its $500,000 funding goal, so the audience is clearly there.

Kickstarter pre-orders are $199 and will be open through September 7. After that, Vector will retail for $249. Backers should receive their friendly robots by October 9, and they'll be in stores October 12.