The Innovator: Robots invade the children’s nursery

One company in the vanguard of the rise of the friendly robots is Anki, a start-up that launched onstage at this month’s Apple developer conference in San Francisco, after raising $50m. Boris Sofman, co-founder and chief executive, raced four small cars around a special mat, controlled over Bluetooth by an iPhone. So far, so 21st-century Scalextric. But, like a video game brought to life, none of the cars was being driven by a person. Each was given its own mission – to overtake another car, say – and used artificial intelligence to try to beat its opponent. The toys use a camera sensor to position themselves on the track, make thousands of calculations a second to decide what to do, then act on that reasoning.
Sofman and his fellow roboticists used their experience building much larger autonomous vehicles at Carnegie Mellon University to create Anki Drive. Drive will be the first Anki product to go on sale this autumn.