Natt GarunUS Editor
Natt Garun is the former US Editor at The Next Web, managing the North American team on content, events, features and reviews coverage. She Natt Garun is the former US Editor at The Next Web, managing the North American team on content, events, features and reviews coverage. She previously wrote for Digital Trends, Business Insider, and Gizmodo. Facebook | Twitter | Google+
Most people recognize Anki best for its line of toy race cars, but the latest product from the company will excite anyone who’s remotely interested in artificial intelligence, robotics, Pixar movies, or all of the above.
Cozmo is Anki’s newest toy car that’s basically Wall-E and Eve’s lovechild come to life. He’s got the body like Wall-E’s with a mechanical arm that can push, lift things and move things around, or flail to show distress. His face is reminiscent of Eve’s, with two digital oval eyes that displays a variety of emotions.
The team worked with Pixar animators to design a robot toy that not only interacts with you, but moves and reacts in a believable way – similar to how you get immersed into Pixar’s animated world.
Using Anki’s proprietary AI system, the company likens Cozmo to a pet. Out of the box, the toy has a young, playful personality and uses its built-in computer vision to recognize each person it plays with, and grows with them as they get better at games, challenges, and activities.
Cozmo’s personality is one of the most incredible things Anki’s built into a toy. If you poke and toss Cozmo around repeatedly, he might show he’s upset and stops playing with you for a few moment to help kids recognize how to better treat their toy.
This ain’t your average pet rock. For example, in a block-building game, you can leave blocks around for Cozmo to stack. If you mess with Cozmo’s stack by putting another block on top when he hasn’t finished, he might get pissed off and pushes the whole thing over and laughs maniacally (Cozmo doesn’t actually speak, but make Wall-E-like noises to emote his feelings).
The interaction is similar to how a Sim might need a moment to recuperate from being sad or angry before they can go enjoy themselves and play again.
Don’t worry though, Anki CEO Boris Sofman says it’s not designed to become depressed overtime if it plays with the wrong kid. The idea is to push the boundaries of what robotics and AI could emulate to create an experience that’s believable and fun.
Playing with Cozmo in our demo was extremely joyous. Anki even worked with composers to create original scoring that matches moments you interact with Cozmo, such as the time he first meets and learns who you are, or the first game you play together. It’s like living your own Pixar film.
Cozmo also remembers each interaction it has with you (say, versus a sibling) so it knows whether you’re at an easier level when playing a color matching game, or if you’re a pro and the toy needs to step up to properly challenge you.
While other smart toys, like the IBM Watson-powered CogniToy dinosaur, offer a great range of intelligence and education, they typically rely on the player to initiate the interaction. If you leave Cozmo to explore your desk, he might be the one to come up to you and introduce a new game to play.
When Cozmo launches in October for $179, Anki plans to open up its AI SDK to let developers help create more games or interactions between the player and the toy. It’s an exciting look at where the future of robotics and toys could go, and it doesn’t hurt Anki to play into the hands of the kids and kids at heart who look to Disney and Pixar as their guide to what the world would be like if non-human objects had a personality.
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