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A couple of weeks after pulling back the curtains on its smart toy called Cozmo, today Anki announced that it will also be releasing a developer SDK in beta that lets anyone tap into the power of this robot, including its sensors, computer vision, and path and motion planning capabilities. Both Cozmo and the SDK will be available in October.
Cozmo is a playful, intelligent robot with an essence of artificial intelligence. As VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi described it, it’s “something like Eve the robot in Pixar’s Wall-E animated film.” Anki cofounder and president Hanns Tappeiner explained that when the company began prototyping its toys, it discovered that people cared a great deal about the character and personality and that it didn’t have to necessarily be in a car.
The robot is rather sophisticated, complete with vision and sensing, animatronics, and artificial intelligence. But rather than keeping the technology to themselves, Anki has created an SDK that gives hackers, developers, educators, and researchers the ability to tie their work with Cozmo. They’ll have full use of the robot’s faculties and won’t need to spend countless hours, days, or months coding it — just insert a couple lines of code.
Tappeiner said that the problem people have when writing for robots is when you really want it to do something that’s beyond executing a blinking light, saying “hello world,” or moving in a linear direction. Adding face recognition, path planning, and a 3D world model requires hundreds of thousands of lines of code just to make it possible. “Nothing easy for general usage,” Tappeiner said.
Written in Python, Cozmo’s SDK provides developers access to multiple capabilities, from the wheels of the robot to the expression on its face, and even to its computer vision technology.
Although it’ll be released to the general public in beta this October, Anki is initially focused on making the SDK work for students, makers, hackers, and researchers. Tappeiner said that researchers have already contacted his company to examine Cozmo’s capabilities.
“Unlike traditional software coding, students of robotics know how quickly you can reach a point where time and capabilities no longer progress at an even pace,” Anki said in a statement. “This unfortunately can stall the advancement of research, as more sophisticated actions require specialized expertise and access to cost-prohibitive equipment.”
Later this year, Anki will revise its SDK to best suit those in the education space — like teachers, academic institutions, research labs, and others — before customizing it for third-party content developers. It was revealed that sometime soon, a marketplace may be created to allow owners of Cozmo to upgrade their robots with these new skills.
So imagine having Cozmo come greet you at the door after being triggered by an August smart lock; or maybe if it senses an intruder, it notifies you on your mobile device. Perhaps playing additional games may be possible. Or could we see a whole army of Cozmos at your beck and call?
Tappeiner said that Cozmo is set for release in October 2016 for $179, but those who preorder will get access to the beta SDK a few days earlier. He cautioned that the company only started mass production last week and expects limited number of units this year, so some customers may not receive their order by the holidays.
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