Anki’s AI-Powered Pet Robot Could Be A Holiday Hit And A Boon For STEM

Not even the robotics wizards at Anki know exactly what their new robot is capable of. But its owners—well, the more industrious developers anyway—are about to show them.

When Anki recently launched Cozmo, an adorable AI-powered companion inspired by Pixar’s adorable characters, the consumer robotics startup created an open software development kit, or SDK, rich with various features. Anyone can write code and program their robot to use Anki’s computer vision, face recognition, emotion engine, and other technologies to expand what Cozmo can do.

The idea, says Anki CEO Boris Sofman, is to unleash the creativity of developers on what is essentially an open robotics platform. Professors at Carnegie Mellon, where Sofman and his cofounder hatched Anki, are already using Cozmo for research and in their classes.

“What’s really exciting,” says Sofman, “is it should be probably the best STEM education platform that’s ever existed for kids.”

As a robotics platform, it’s a steal at $179. And as a toy, it could be a hit this holiday season. What’s novel about the palm-sized Cozmo is its big personality; it has the ability to recognize people’s faces, interact with the physical environment, and express a range of emotions. “Our goal,” says Sofman, “is to make him feel like he’s truly alive.”

—Chuck SalterAH