How Does Anki Drive Really Work?

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While it may initially look like a simple toy car racing game, Anki Drive is anything but. The game is actually an innovative combination of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) that is processed by an app running on Apple’s iOS devices such as the iPhone or iPod Touch. The field of robotics had been around for quite a while, but what makes Anki Drive so special is, besides the huge opportunity they had to show off their product on Apple’s stage, is that the company’s goal is to make consumer robotics that people will want to have in their homes.

The Racetrack

Of the three main components that make Anki Drive work, the track itself is the easiest to understand. The track is actually just a mat with a race course printed on it. However, it is no ordinary race course. The track is embedded with optically encoded location information. This is key for Anki drive to function, because the robot cars read their location, transmit it back to the iPhone and then make decisions because on their location, their speed and, the location of other vehicles on the track. If you pull an Anki car off the track, it can’t sense its surroundings.

Anki’s Cars

As you would expect, Anki’s cars are much more than your typical RC car. They feature two inexpensive motors, Bluetooth technology for reading the track and communicating with the AI, and most importantly, microprocessors. In other words, Anki’s cars have brains of their own. Between the combination of their microprocessors and the complex algorithms programmed into the app, each car can process up to 500 decisions every second according to Anki’s CEO and cofounder, Boris Soffman.

Anki Drive: The App

What attracted Apple to this startup robotic company is that the real power behind the system lies in the AI built into the iOS app. Not only do iOS devices act as the brains of the operations, but they’re controllers as well. Players can easily have their cars change tactics, use special features or change speed simply by using the touch screen app. Of, if players want, they can simply set the app to let the cars race around on their own and rely on powerful combination of the sensors and the AI to determine the course of the race.

Anki wisely decided to use the least expensive parts they could get, without sacrificing quality, so that they could make the game affordable. Both the hardware and software components work together to make Anki drive an immersive experience in which video games are no longer confined to television or computer screens, but they physical objects that you can touch. With a projected price tag of $200 when the game is released this fall, many technology fans are going to be very impressed with all the sophisticated features Anki Drive offers for a relatively modest price point.

Image credit: Deviant Art