Robotics startup Anki Drive achieved the dream of many a business when the small company was given the opportunity to take centre stage at Apple’s prestigious Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday. As if that wasn’t enough, Anki was given a glowing introduction by the Apple CEO Tim Cook himself.
So what is it about Anki that Apple is so taken with? This, indeed, was the question on everyone’s lips.
On the surface Anki Drive is nothing but a toy car racing game. However, underneath is an impressive combination of robotics and artificial intelligence which happens to run on Apple’s mobile operating system iOS.
The cars in Anki Drive are equipped with a full suite of high-tech sensors and artificial intelligence allowing them to drive themselves around the track. Google’s autonomous car operates on a similar premise. But, as there is a game element, the cars can pass and run other cars off the road, or even (virtually) shoot at one another. It’s effectively a physical version of a video game.
The idea behind it is to bring robots away from the factory floors and into the mainstream:
"Very little of what is used in robotics research actually makes it into consumer products," co-founder Mark Palatucci commented. "We saw an opportunity to bring cutting edge robotics into peoples' lives”.
Although neither Apple or Anki could be probed further, the platform holds possibilities for much more than cars. So lucrative are the applications that the project, five years in the making, was in stealth mode all the way up to WWDC.
Commentators believe the Anki WWDC demo only scratched the surface of the capabilities of the technology: The race cars are aware of their surroundings and can figure out what they want to do and the car, much like a video game character, actually evolves over time.