AI startup Anki raised $50M for its iOS-powered driving game, but its vision goes beyond entertainment

AI startup Anki raised $50M for its iOS-powered driving game, but its vision goes beyond entertainment ...

If you watched Apple’s WWDC 2013 keynote today, you may already know about artificial intelligence startup Anki, and its upcoming game Anki Drive.

Anki partially lifted the curtains on its first product, but the startup has and continues to remain quite secretive about its upcoming “platform.” The company claims it has been in the works for over five years.

According to Anki, Anki Drive is “the first manifestation” of its technology. The game, which is part app, part toy, is slated to launch this fall and will cost around $200. The company has absorbed approximately two rounds of funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and Two Sigma — $50 million in total.

If you haven’t yet, watch Anki’s WWDC presentation. You’ll see that the game consists of remote control-style cars driving on some sort of race track mat. What makes the game special is its ability to turn physical toy cars into video game bots which you can race against.

When it raised its Series A last year, Anki was team of four. A portion of that round went towards building out the team, co-founders Mark Palatucci and Hanns Tappeiner told us. That included everything from hiring industrial designers and mechanical engineers to iOS developers. During the first fifteen months after raising its Series A, Anki developed its “core technology and platform.” With another round closed, Anki is forming its sales and marketing teams.

Anki insists it is an “AI company first.”

Talking about its demo at WWDC, Palatucci says a single phone is the brains of the game, handling the “positioning, reasoning and execution” of the robotic cars. It’s solely an entertainment product, but we’re told the founders have a much larger vision — “an entire pipeline of products” is apparently in the works.

Anki could take its idea of bringing video game mechanics to the physical world further — it’s not hard to imagine this sort of idea combined with a sport like hockey, where the puck could push itself around. It’s tough to say if that’s a stretch or not; as far as what other games will be released, Anki won’t budge.

Anki insists it is an “AI company first.” In other words, Anki Drive may just be a preview, allowing the company to show off its platform to game developers. The startup’s investment in hardware, however, makes its long-term goals unclear.

➤ Anki

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