If Pixar designers were allowed to build a real robot, the result would be pretty cute, just like Anki’s mini robot called Cozmo. The clever, tiny robot encourages the user to look after him and play with him to help keep him in top condition.
Visually, the robot looks like a cross between Wall-E and Eve from the Pixar film. This similarity is no coincidence: Behind the design, the programmed personality and the behaviour of the Cozmo are former Pixar employees and a team of animation film entertainers. Large parts of Cozmo’s animations were designed in Maya, a software for computer animations and modelling. These animation techniques were used to map out Cozmo’s behaviour and movements including how he reacts to his user and environment.
Anki Cozmo and his mind-blowing personality
Anki’s Cozmo looks like a tiny bulldozer with a small cube monitor as a face, with two round eyes that change shape, depending on the mood. It is easy to see when the robot is asleep/ charging because he snores and bobs his head in time to his snoring. But this is not all that the little Cozmo is able to do. Because the developers have created the robot so that it is able to learn to a certain extent: the longer you use it, the more it develops its own personality. In addition, the robot can learn to recognise its user’s face and name as well as recognising primary facial expressions.
The more that the user interacts with the robot, the more it develops its personality as well as opening up new games to play with the robot not to mention upgrade options. The robot can also remember what games have been played even to the point of prompting the user if they would like to play them again. These games are mostly played using interactive cubes that come with the robot. Of course, the robot plays to win and when it loses a game or makes mistakes it will often display its frustration by throwing a small (yet entertaining) tantrum. However, interacting with the robot does offer extra rewards in the form of a virtual currency called sparks. Earn enough sparks and they can be used to unlock more content. It is not only the user that Cozmo can recognise and interact with as recent updates allow the robot to be able to identify and even talk to pets around the home. As part of the updates, Cozmo can also try to learn words as well but don’t worry about foul language as the robot knows what words it should not repeat in front of sensitive ears so you will not hear the robot cursing like a salty sailor(although that could be entertaining too).
One thing that sets Cozmo above earlier types of interactive toys such as Tamagotchi’s or Furbies is that its AI is much more advanced and as such it has a much more developed personality though like its predecessors it will try and draw attention to itself if it is either bored or needs attending to.
Cozmo works in conjunction with a smartphone which can be used to look after the robot as well as interact with it. You can even use the smartphone to see the world through the robot’s eyes as it explores its surroundings. Cozmo has a battery life of approximately 2 hours before needing a 10-minute powernap (never has the word been more appropriate). After it has completed charging, it must be connected to a smartphone app to become active again and as soon as the apps is closed the robot will go to sleep again, that is unless it begins to feel neglected in which case it may mumble to itself or even move the cubes around like dice.
Image Source: xmasgiftsforall.com via Pinterest
Cozmo goes above and beyond serving as a playmate, it can be a teacher as well especially when using the code lab system integrated into the smartphone app which is based upon a visual block building system that the user can use to program behaviours and reactions for the robot.
Anki and the developer mode
For those more interested in the developer aspect of the robot users can use the downloadable SDK and python programming language to experiment with the robot and develop new behaviours and tricks. When used in conjunction with the code lab, users can easily play with what Cozmo can do. For example, it may be possible for the robot to play more traditional games like poker, roulette or even slots and with its competitive personality the results are bound to be entertaining. Until then, given how prevalent robots are in popular culture, fans of these games may find it worth their time to look for some robot-themed slot games online, some of which available with free spins. For Example, the slot game Alien Robots which features very similar looking robots and card game symbols. if you like your robots with a bit more punch then there is the Terminator 2 slot featuring the ever popular T-800 with Sarah and John Connor.
The new robot from Anki is a fun companion that is really smart and intelligent. However, this is clearly a toy, but one with huge potential for the future and could well herald in an age of robotic companions like those we have seen in many science fiction movies. The little robot is cute, clever and can even read texts and phrases. Cozmo is a little like a Tamagotchi, which had to be fed and played with every day but at the same time, the robot is so much more. Cozmo is currently available for the price of £199. As a toy or as a coding and developer tool, Cozmo has a lot to offer in a very small but very fun package.