Since first clapping yes on the wares of Anki at a WWDC keynote in 2013 it was apparent they were out to do things differently. The group of graduates armed with hefty robotics and A.I. qualifications launched a toy company, Anki Drive at first, then Overdrive, the resent addition of Supertrucks for their modular racetrack and the additional gameplay they offer show how far the software has come. We were never under any illusion that these fine folk and their team of heavyweights from across UX, animation, robotics and other fields were staying in the toy market forever. Today they announced Cozmo and, whilst it has the appearance of a toy robot there is far too much tech inside to qualify this chap as a plaything. It’ll appeal to kids into robotics and soon enough as ANKI open-source the software it’ll take it’s place within much STEM cirriculum activity. The $180 “toy” interacts with a human and smartphone interface, a tap on the screen of the latter brings it awake from its lifelike slumber (the snore of an uncle).”In the very beginning, when we started working on the first version of [Anki] Drive, we realised that characters and personalities are a big deal,” says Hanns Tappeiner, Anki’s co-founder and president. “The problem we had was that cars aren’t the best form factor to bring personalities out.” So Anki kept the idea under wraps and toiled in secret on using AI and robotics to “bring a character to life which you would normally only see in movies.”
Cozmo comes with a set of sensor-embedded blocks to both play games and assist it in figuring out its position. Cozmo uses facial recognition technology powered by a camera where the mouth might be and this helps it remember different people with the software also adapting to each user over time according to the interaction. There is plenty of clever stuff going on here but the bulk of the processing stuff is handled by the app over WiFi and thus keeping Cozmo to a mere 300 or so parts in size and not too much heavy duty computer parts.
Anki have loaded Cozmo up with what they’ve slated the emotion engine, a place where a range of different states/moods can be emulated by the robot. Calm, brave, confident, and excited are just a few of them and each one is derived by combining the five personality traits used to describe the human psyche in different ways. Anki and their software have mashed these up and Cozmo can replicate a complex range of these emotions.
The price tag might well have one of these emotions firmly in your mind right now but when compared with the Sphero BB-8 and R/C R2D2 both at around $130-$150 this has way more going for it.