Anki Drive: a cool racing game for the iPhone and harbinger of the Robot Revolution

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Don’t worry: its not the start of Skynet. However, the advent of domestic robots seems to have been officially kick-started with the introduction of Anki Drive, an iPhone racing game with a twist.

No less than four and a half years have gone into the development of these small racing monsters that can best be compared with a set of Hot Wheels. However, with a description like that the Anki would certainly not have been able to attract $50 million in financing!

The cars from the Anki racing game comprise a combination of toys and high-grade artificial intelligence — the fruit of some very hard work by three robotics scientists. In other words, they are not just exciting and fun to play with, but also interesting to disassemble and analyze.

The company, whose name means “to learn by heart”, in Japanese, wanted to prove that it is possible to build intelligent consumer products that amaze the user, but are built with relatively cheap materials. And I use the world ‘relative’ on purpose, as an Anki starter kit comes at $199, while an additional race car will already set you back $69.

However, in exchange for this amount you will become the owner of an impressive piece of technology. The sturdy cars are filled to the brim with state-of-the-art sensors and feature an almost microscopically sensor for handling all the input. The cars are able to process signals such as their position on the track, environment and distance to opponents at no less than 500 times a second. If the cars would be enlarged to normal size, this speed would be equivalent to 248 miles an hour.

As indicated, an Anki Drive starter kit will set you back $199. This will get you a racetrack (mat), two cars, charging stations and a car cleaning set. In the United States, the cars have been available since October 23, but it is still unknown if or when they will see their European market introduction.

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