Anki’s Cozmo Robot Combines Artificial Intelligence with Toys

(Photo: Anki)

(Photo: Anki)

The San Francisco-based robotic firm Anki, known for its smartphone-controlled toy race cars, has just announced the creation of an Artificial Intelligence toy robot by the name of Cozmo.

The palm-sized robot looks similar to a dump truck with a block for a head.  Moving on tank-style tracks, Cozmo features built-in speakers that play music that changes based on the robot’s “emotions.”  The same animation software was used to design the robot that is used by filmmakers, allowing Cozmo to show off “endearingly goofy moves” in real life, writes Nathan Olivarez-Giles for The Wall Street Journal.

“The reason we love the robots we see in movies so much is because they don’t just respond with the same canned responses, they surprise you,” says Hanns Tappeiner, Anki’s president and co-founder. “It’s taken years but our technology is finally to a point where we can build a robot with personality—and bring some of the things you see in the movies to real life.”

Through a connected iPhone, Cozmo is able to recognize faces and understand when it is about to roll of the edge of a table.  It is also able to play simple games and stack blocks.

Tappeiner said that while Cozmo is based on the AI technology used by the company to create their smart car toys, it is not as limited as the cars were.  He said that although the cars were fun to play with, they could not be turned into characters unless they were painted onto the cars in a similar fashion to the Disney film Cars.

Meanwhile, Cozmo was created to be playful.  It is able to recognize and remember users and also interacts with them, getting to know them over time.  Tappeiner said Cozmo attempts to combine the best of animation, including humor, personality, and emotional connection, with robotics and gameplay, writes Dean Takahashi for VentureBeat.

A color display represents a face with eyes that light up when a familiar person is seen.  The built-in emotion engine allows the robot to express a variety of emotions with its eyes.  In addition, it features its own voice, language, and soundtrack to match his mood and also corresponds to games and activities.

In setting up a demo, Tappeiner said, “I don’t know exactly what will happen in the demo. That is because his model is set up after the behavior of live beings like pets.”

Powered by advanced robotics, AI, and computer vision, the robot is able to process more data per second than all of the Mars rovers put together.  Comparable robots are found within labs, coming at a cost of thousands of dollars and standing several feet high.

In addition to using computer vision, animatronics, motors, and A.I. software, the robot features three ARM-based microprocessors running on Android and iOS.

Anki worked on 45 versions of the robot throughout the last four-and-a-half years before settling on this one.

The robot works with an Android or iOS device.  It is expected to debut in the US this October at a cost of $180.