Pixar-inspired Cozmo robot has big personality, big screen hopes

Thu Aug 4, 2016 8:40pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A new palm-sized robot is vying to become a favorite toy, equipped with a cheeky personality and hopes for a possible future entertainment franchise.

Cozmo, a palm-sized microbot armed with sensors, motors and visual capabilities and controlled using a smartphone, is the latest product from San Francisco-based robotics startup Anki, the makers of Overdrive robotic race car toy sets.

Cozmo is not the first smartphone-controlled robotic toy. Similar products are available that can teach kids to code or just play games and perform tricks such as Sphero's popular smartphone-controlled "Star Wars" BB-8 droid.

But most robot toys do not come equipped with the capability to learn over time, Anki Chief Executive Boris Sofman said.

"There's certainly a lot of products out there that want to be a pet or a toy robot or robot companion, but all of them really lack the ability to truly see and understand their environment," Sofman said.

Cozmo's personality is driven by artificial intelligence as he learns to recognize familiar faces and play games such as Quick Tap, in which he challenges a player to match colors.

When he loses a game, he throws his building blocks in a tantrum, and when he wins, he likes to show off.

"He wants to be this Jedi master but he's not quite there yet so he has to uncover his skills ... and you're there to help him," Sofman said.   Continued...