Cars that talk, have emotions and think for themselves—no, it's not a Pixar film, it's a toy, coming to a living room floor near you.
"Anki DRIVE" is a battle-racing game from the robotics company Anki. Players' smartphones use sophisticated artificial intelligence to communicate with micro computers in the cars. The cars report their positions on the track, and the phones then coordinate the cars' paths.
"You're playing against a computer who's controlling these real-life physical cars on your living room floor," said Mark Palatucci, co-founder and chief product officer of Anki.
"You can really think of it as 'Toy Story' brought to life."
Palatucci began developing the product with his two co-founders as they worked on their Ph.D.'s in robotics and artificial intelligence at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon. They raised $50 million from Andreessen Horowitz to start Anki three years ago, and have since brought in Index Ventures and JPMorgan as investors.
"So much of robotics is stuck in research labs and never makes it into any sort of consumer application, and we were all really excited about making the kind of product that could be used in millions of homes," Palatucci said.
After last year's limited launch of "Anki DRIVE" exclusively in Apple stores, this holiday season the game is available from multiple retailers and with an updated application now compatible with both iOS and Android. A starter kit that includes the rollable racetrack and two cars costs $149. Expansion cars cost $49 and two other racetracks are $69 each.