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Boris Sofman, chief executive of Anki, gave us our own personal demo of the newest upgrades for the Anki Drive racing game, where humans try to beat artificial-intelligence-based cars in combat racing matches.

Anki now has 20 major upgrades for its cars.

Above: Anki now has 20 major upgrades for its cars.

Image Credit: Anki

The company launched its iPhone-controlled racing game in October and it has launched a major software upgrade for the game. Anki showed off these new features at the 2014 International CES tech trade show in Las Vegas. The company was in the gaming showcase at CES and showed off demos of the cars behind closed doors.

With Anki Drive, you use your iPhone to control a race car in competition with other artificial intelligence-driven cars speeding around a physical track. The track detects the car’s location and movement 500 times a second.

The track mat has an ink that is embedded with a code. That tells the car where it is on the track and where it is relative to other cars. Each car also a tiny camera under it that can read that information. (Yes, this is why the game costs $200.) The cars have a 50-megahertz processor, a multicolor LED, and Bluetooth low-energy radio to communicate with the smartphone.

With Anki Drive, you roll out a mat on the ground that serves as a race track. You can place two cars down on the track that will start driving around on their own. Then those vehicles will adapt and learn how to compete better. You can then control the game through the iOS app, which enables you to steer your own car and fire vehicle weapons. While the cars can keep themselves racing around the track, you can make them do tight or wide turns.

About nine times out of ten, the AI can beat a human when the game is on its hardest setting.

Sofman showed off a feature known as Reverse Drive, which lets you do a 180-degree turn and change directions. You can fire a weapon to take someone out or just drive against the flow of traffic. A car will light up and slow down if it gets hit with a weapon, and the user’s iPhone screen shows what happened.

There’s also a new Kinetic Brake, which brings you to a dead stop on the track by engaging an emergency brake. There’s an electromagnetic pulse that lets you damage opponents as you pass them. And there’s a horn to force others out of your way.

Founded by robotics experts at Carnegie Mellon University, Anki has worked on the technology for six years. It has raised $50 million and it has 60 employees.

Here’s our video of a demo of the latest features of Anki Drive, as demoed by Sofman. Anki Drive works with the iPhone 4S and up, the iPod Touch (fifth generation and up), the third-generation iPad and up, and the iPad Mini.

The company’s backers are Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, and Two Sigma. The name Anki means to “learn by heart.”


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