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Meet Anki's AI-Powered Cozmo Robot

By Victor Thomson , Jun 28, 2016 04:50 AM EDT
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Anki unveiled on Monday, June 27, its Cozmo AI-powered robot. The gadget represents the culmination of company's many years of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) work.

According to the Verge, the small robot is shaped like a miniaturized bulldozer and it looks lifelike enough to evoke sympathy. The vehicular robot toy is like a cross between a Tonka Truck and a Furby.

According to Wired, Sofman, CEO of robotics company Anki, took the stage at Apple's WWDC keynote threw years ago and demonstrated a set of artificially intelligent race cars. They were called Anki Drive and were Anki's first product.

Cozmo is the second product coming from Anki after five years in development. The coffee-mug-sized robot is a toy meant for children and it costs $180.

The Anki crew has been planning Cozmo since well before Drive's demo at WWDC. Sofman was a PhD student in the well-regarded robotics program at Carnegie Mellon from 2005-2010. He, along with classmates Hans Tappeiner and Mark Palatucci wanted to do something unique with their research.

Sofman said that Cozmo is meant to be like a real-life version of R2-D2 or Wall-E. It feels real even if it is not human, thanks to a unique combination of advanced robotics, computer-vision science, "emotional engine" based on a set of machine learning algorithms and deep character development.

Hoping to encourage children learning to program by building fun features and new games for their robots, Sofman and his team are offering SDKs for nearly every part of Cozmo. According to Sofman, "this could be the most capable STEM platform."

Cozmo is fully based on deep learning and computer vision. The robot sees the world through the camera in its face that runs at 15 frames per second. The footage is sent to the owner's phone.

After the processing, the smartphone is sending instructions back to the robot. That means that Cozmo has as much processing power as the handset in your pocket.

Anki will be constantly updating the robot's software with new capabilities and games. Even if Cozmo may look and act like a toy, the company wants to make it the next big thing in hardware computing.

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