Cozmo is so cute that it almost hurts. The small robot is shaped like a bulldozer with a CRT monitor inside. It sits on a charging dock, snoring, until you are ready to play with it. Like WALL-E, Cozmo is one of the friendliest, adorable things you will ever see. When you tap the screen, he will wake up. It does take him a minute to gather himself, but then he is ready to start moving.
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If you try to drive him off of a cliff (or a table) he even acts like he's scared and will stop it.
This little creature is smart as well - he remembers the faces of people in the room.
He's the creation of Anki, a Silicon Valley toymaker that has made some pretty great mobile race cars that are controlled using an app. The company is led by a trio of Carnegie Mellon graduates who all have PhDs in robotics.
They put their degrees to good use because Cozmo is one of the best examples of robotics and AI available to the public.
"In the very beginning, when we started working on the first version of [Anki] Drive, we realized that characters and personalities are a big deal," says Hanns Tappeiner, Anki’s co-founder and president. "The problem we had was that cars aren’t the best form factor to bring personalities out." So they kept everything a secret and worked tirelessly to "bring a character to life which you would normally only see in movies," Tappeiner says.
Cozmo is ready to play with children (and adults) ages eight and up. He will retail for $180 in October, but pre-orders start today. While it might seem expensive, you can compare it to the remote-controlled R2-D2 that costs $150 and Sphero’s app-controlled BB-8 replica that runs $130 - and this one is far better.
Cozmo has sensor blocks that will help with positioning and game playing. The facial recognition comes from the camera where his mouth would be. The software will learn from you as you play with it. You do have to pair him with a smartphone, and that is where a lot of the fun comes from.
The coolest part is that Cozmo is able to through a series of emotions, including happy, calm, brave, confident, and excited, to name a few. You can't really guess how Cozmo will react to any situation, which is actually part of the fun. He will also be able to unlock new skills as he learns more about the people who play with him.
The hope is that if Cozmo is a success, they will be able to make him more affordable down the road.
"We’re going to give people unprecedented access to robotics with this," Tappeiner says.
For now it might feel like a kid's toy that a lot of adults want to play with too.
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"Cozmo doesn’t just move through his world — he can manipulate it," Tappeiner says. "People perceive manipulation as intelligence."