Anki Drive’s AI Toy Cars Race Onto Shelves Oct. 23

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The high-tech slotcar races of your youth look like a game of Tiddlywinks next to newcomer Anki Drive, set to make its artificial intelligence debut next week.

On Oct. 23, Anki Drive takes the fight between man and machine to the next level, daring players to outsmart a toy car.

Don’t start bragging just yet. Every Anki Drive vehicle is equipped with sensors and intelligent software, allowing the miniature plastic automobile to make thousands of decisions each second.

Engineered to think and designed to win, the colorful cars evolve over time, gaining new weapons and developing unique personality traits.

Players can choose which cars will be navigated by a human, and which will remain in artificial-intelligence mode; using the accompanying iOS app to adjust the “smart” levels, wave the checkered flag, and try to out-race the competition.

According to TechCrunch, which got a hands-on look at the new real-life racer, the game comes in two modes: battle and target practice.

In battle mode, players have a chance to take down opposing cars with virtual weapons, controlled via an iDevice, which is also used to shift your vehicle across the lanes of the track by tilting the phone. Earn points in each game to later put toward upgrades like new weapons or performance modifications.

Anki Drive Cars

With an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad standing in as the remote control, players simply control the gas and the guns, not the steering of the car, as noted by TechCrunch.

San Francisco-based robotics company Anki unveiled its modern take on Matchbox Cars during this summer’s Apple WWDC, where it provided a live demonstration of the game.

An accompanying iOS app later hit the iTunes Store, hoping to seduce players with details about the cars, the game, and the science and technology behind it all.

As of next week, anyone with a mobile Apple device, a 10-square-inch bit of floor space, and an extra $200, can see what all the futuristic fuss is about.

“As exciting as this step is for us, we look at is as much more than just the launch of our first product,” CEO Boris Sofman wrote in a blog post. “We see it as a key step in a massive new industry still in its infancy.”

Available to U.S. and Canadian customers in the Apple Store and online at Anki.com, the Starter Kit comes with two cars (the Boson and Kourai, above), the 3.5-by-8.5-inch roll-out track, chargers, and a tire cleaner for $199. Additional cars (there are four in total) can be purchased for $69 each.

“One of the things that most motivates and inspires us, is knowing just how transformative the right applications of robotics and artificial intelligence can be,” Sofman said. “These technologies transcend product categories and bring a previously unattainable level of intelligence and purpose to the physical world.”

Take a look at Anki Drive in action in the video below, and check out the game’s official website for more details about the individual cars’ handling, weapons, and available upgrades.

By Stephanie Mlot, PCMag


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