Anki, a San Francisco-based startup that focuses on artificial intelligence, or AI, and consumer robotics, is all set to debut its iOS-powered remote control Anki Drive car set on Oct. 23.
Anki Drive, which made a brief appearance at Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Worldwide Developer’s Conference, or WWDC, in June, will be sold exclusively at Apple Stores as well as through the company’s website for $199. The kit comes with a race track and two cars -- “Kourai” in yellow and “Boson” in silver -- and includes battery chargers, tire cleaner and housing cases for the vehicles. Additional cars will cost $69 each.
“We see it as a key step in a massive new industry still in its infancy,” Boris Sofman, co-founder and CEO of Anki, wrote in a blog post. “We see Anki DRIVE as a milestone in consumer robotics, and a demonstration of how transformative robotics and artificial intelligence technologies can be to categories that have yet to be touched by them.”
During the live demonstration at the WWDC, Sofman showed off four tiny remote-controlled cars equipped with cameras, sensors and specialized software running around a black racing track without user intervention. The toy cars were connected to an iPhone via Bluetooth, helping the user control steering and acceleration. Players can also race each other or the AI via the Anki Drive iOS app.
What makes Anki Drive interesting is that the cars can be controlled by the game's AI and provides players with add-on features such as virtual guns and tractor beams. The app plays sounds and makes the iOS device vibrate when one player is "shot" by another to make the gaming experience more real.
In addition, the cars are programmed with individual personalities and attributes such as speed, armor and weaponry. Although Anki Drive is a physical product, the company said that regular software updates would be rolled out with new features and improvements.
Anki Drive’s cars were designed by Harald Belker, a Hollywood designer who is behind designs such as the Batmobile in Batman and Robin, and the vehicles in Minority Report, Tron Legacy and Total Recall (2012).
“We think Apple was pretty excited to see how its mobile device and technology helped unlock an entirely new way to create video games in the real world,” Sofman said. “Mobile devices are a natural frontrunner for the ‘brains’ behind consumer robotics applications.”
Founded in 2010, Anki has raised $50 million in venture-backed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and Two Sigma.