Artificial intelligence and robotics firm Anki is poised to debut its iOS-powered remote control Anki Drive car set on Oct. 23, and will be selling the toys exclusively at Apple Stores for a starting price of $199.
Anki Drive made a splash at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, when the company was granted highly coveted demo time ahead of Apple's keynote.
In the live demonstration, Anki's cofounder and CEO Boris Sofman showed off four small remote control cars that use cameras, sensors and specialized software to zip around a black race mat without user intervention. The toys are connected via Bluetooth LE to an iOS device that can partially control steering and acceleration. Other game types allow players to race each other or the AI via the Anki Drive iOS app.
What makes the toy set interesting is the autonomy of each car. With the AI handling steering, players can take control of the gas and fire imaginary guns, as well as special weapons like a tractor beam, at other racers. Shooting bullets and other weaponry is limited to a car's line-of-sight, while effects are played out as if in a video game.
For example, if one player is trailing and strikes a critical hit on the car ahead of it, lights will flash and the toy will come to a halt or slow down as if disabled. On the iOS device, sound effects play and the handset vibrates in reaction to the strike. A point system grants players power ups and access to special abilities that can be used in future races.
Each car has its own "personality," or special attributes, such as speed, armor and increased weaponry. Anki says it tried to strike a gameplay balance by putting a cap on the number of "maxed out" cars, allowing for a more dynamic experience.
Aside from the above game modes, there isn't much in the way of direct interaction, though for Anki that's the point. The AI keeps the toys on course with little to no user intervention, while drivers "steer" for tighter or wider turns to gain an advantageous position on their opponents. Anki Drive is essentially a racing shooter video game brought to life.
The Anki Drive Starter Kit, which includes two cars and the racetrack, is priced at $199 and will be sold online and at Apple Stores on Oct. 23. Two additional car models will also be available for $69 each.