Who doesn’t love Pixar’s adorable animated robot Wall-E? We have all dreamed of having a robot as a companion or a side-kick in our dreamworld. While there have been huge advancements in robotics, but integrating Artificial Intelligence with Robotics still seems like an impossible idea. Imagine a robot that is cute, smart, inexpensive, emotionally intelligent, and very responsive.
Introducing Cozmo, an AI Toy truck that looks like a Mars Rover and Wall- E that gets familiar with you over time. Cozmo recognizes faces, plays games with you, and responds to its environment to develop its personality based on five major personality traits from animation movie Inside Out. It is developed by Anki, a 2010 start-up launched by a trio of Carnegie Mellon graduates holding PhDs in Robotics. The palm-sized robot is designed for 8-year-old that costs $180.
Playing With Toy Truck
When playing with Cozmo, it’s easy to forget all of the engineering and software written by engineers. Every action, from Cozmo’s audible chirps of victory when it wins a game to its childlike cuteness when it recognizes your face, is the result of tens of thousands of coding instructions.
Cozmo has a set of sensor-embedded blocks that can be used for playing games and to help it in navigation and path-finding. The robot can recognize faces by using its camera where its face would be to remember different people, and its software will learn and adapt to you as you spend more time with it.
The distinguishing feature of Cozmo is what Anki is calling an emotion engine. It powers a wide range of different emotions and scenarios the robot is capable of emulating. By mixing and mashing the major traits as if they were different colors, Cozmo can produce a surprisingly wide range of human-like feelings.
“Picking up Cozmo would result in an angry head shake. If it didn’t feel like playing a game, it would react to your finger by trying to catch it using its lift-like arms. If feeling idle, it will even begin playing classic game Breakout on its the display. When back on its charging dock, Cozmo snoozes to sleep. Anki says the device’s battery lasts for about two hours, but it can charge in eight to 10 minutes”- says Boris Sofman, co-founder Anki.
“With enough attention and love to it,” Sofman says, “this could be the most capable STEM platform that ever existed.”
Consumers Can Customize Cozmo
At the launch of Cozmo, Anki shared his plans of releasing a software development kit for Cozmo to makers and hobbyists, currently a beta version. The SDK will enable the consumer to program Cozmo with a few lines of code to perform various tasks. Furthermore, programmers and third-party developers will be able to experiment with the kit. This way, users can direct Cozmo to perform a range of complex robotic tasks like facial recognition and navigation with route planning without even having any background in robotics or programming.
Anki hopes that the consumers will not think of Cozmo as a complex robot or a cryptic technology but more of a companion robot that can understand them and they can understand it. The company wants people to know what’s going on the inside and then modify it themselves.
“As a developer, you don’t need to care,” Hanns Tappeiner, Anki’s co-founder and president, says. “You just ask the robot what he currently sees.”
The SDK is designed so you can interact with the robot’s programming in both simple and complex ways. Whether you’re an eight-year-old student or a programmer, you can just tell Cozmo what you want it to do. All you need for this is the Cozmo app. By plugging your mobile device into your computer, you will be able to start the software that controls the robot to tinker with it.
The Cozmo SDK gives every customer access to the robot’s simple and complex functions. The basics include,
“wheel speed, lift and head position, and sensor data. The more advanced functions include Cozmo’s facial recognition abilities, its emotion engine for replicating a number of human-like personality traits and behaviors, and its ability to understand objects in the environment and plan paths around them”- reported by Verge.
This SDK has the two-pronged purpose. To give customers cutting-edge AI and testify that Anki’s software can become the stepping stone for a whole new generation of consumer robotics.
“We’re building them as fast as we can,” Tappeiner says.
I wish I could have this toy in my childhood!