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Cozmo is like a real life WALL-E. Cozmo is an interactive robot toy with built in facial recognition (via Anki)

 

Remember when robotic toys were hot in the 90's? There was Tekno, Poo-Chi, and even the eerie Furby. But they weren't that interactive aside from making a few sounds and walking around. Anki, the creators of car racing phenomenon Anki Overdrive, are introducing a new robotic toy to the masses and it's gonna steal your heart. Named Cozmo, the square little robot will make you think of Pixar's adorable WALL-E. It's a cute little toy, but Cozmo is more impressive when he comes to life.

 

All it takes to get Cozmo moving is the tap of a smartphone screen. It slowly opens its LED blue eyes, as if waking up from the deepest of sleeps and starts moving. Thanks to Cozmo's built in facial recognition, the little bot can identify people around him, which helps to build relationships over time. The more you play with Cozmo, the happier he is to see you. If you haven't played with him in a while, he may prompt you to play a game. And if you win, he may sulk. Unlike previous robotic toys, Cozmo has the ability to build skills over time. This is done by interacting with the blocks he's shipped with, but it won't come to him easy. When Cozmo gets something wrong, he'll get visibly frustrated – even robots aren't perfect. Some of the games you can play with Cozmo include Breakout and Whack-a-Mole.

 

“We’re bringing together people from different fields who have never coexisted on a project,” says Anki CEO Boris Sofman. “We have animators who have worked their entire careers at places like Pixar and DreamWorks that are animating the first physical character like this in the real world. They no longer have a story on rails, but have to deal with the interactivity of the real world. At the end of the day, it’s all of these amazing skills from sound, game, animation, robotics and engineering that come together and make it possible to tell stories in the real world.”

 

And Cozmo answers the sci-fi question, can robots feel emotion? The robot comes equipped with what's called an “emotion engine” which controls the wide range of emotions he can emulate. Cozmo combines elements from five personality traits used to describe the human psyche to show how he's feeling – happy, calm, brave, confident, and excited to name a few. To help nail these emotions, Anki recruited former Pixar animator Carlos Baena to run character direction. "We wrote a huge amount of software inside of Maya to allow our animators not to animate a movie, but an actual robot," says Anki co-founder Hanns Tappeiner.

 

Looking like a little box with forklift arms, Cozmo's design wasn't only inspired by WALL-E. Anki designed more than 45 iterations using various iconic robots as the basis, including The Iron Giant, Astro Boy, and Doozers from Fraggle Rock. The team not only wanted to make Cozmo robotic, but slightly human as well. It took them a while to find the right balance without making it feel too human, but they finally landed on the cute little design.

 

Cozmo is ready for pre-order from Anki.com. He ships in October just in time for the holidays and will cost $179.99. This little guy is cute and intuitive you may have to buy one for yourself rather than getting one for the kids. Now, all Anki needs to do is create a companion for Cozmo, perhaps name her EVE, and people can recreate the WALL-E movie. We all really want robot friends... they're getting closer to that goal with every new bot.

 

 

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