anki drive

The Future of Interactive Toys: Anki Drive


The desire to drive, race and otherwise dominate your competition: you are either born with it or you aren’t.  I was definitely born with it.  From Hot Wheels tracks, to the little 2 lane slot car racing kits with their electric transformers and ridiculously hard to drive cars, to the local hobby lanes where you can get on the 8 or 12 lane wide track and show off your skills; I’ve had and pretty much done them all. (For a look at my review of the ultimate grown up toy go here).


Of course we grow up and take our passion to the stoplight races (still illegal), or the track if we’ve got the money and car for it, or even the parking lot for a little Sports Car Association timed lap workout.  The old Mattel and Tyco tracks we used to setup in the bedroom, living room, or other inconvenient space become little more than fond memories of childhood. And while technological advances (like magnetic cars!) brought back a little desire to re-visit the the halcyon days of racing your buddy’s around and around the increasingly complicated tracks we used to build, it was never really enough to get us off the dime and get another track.  Until now that is.

If you aren’t familiar with Anki Drive ( – they came out last year with a “slot car” system (without the slots) that let you drive a little electric car from your phone or pad.  A cool idea, not much more exciting for most of us than a Parrot Drone that you could fly with your I-Pad.  Then they had this bright idea – since we’re already using the combination of hardware (the track and cars) and software (the track, cars and controls), what if we added weapons, and a custom configurable track, and…AI drivers…Wait, what?

Check this out:

Now The configurable track was already a big step up for Anki, a welcome one, but AI drivers? AI drivers that your physical car reacts to? And they have weapons that your car also reacts to? Yeah, this is so unlike anything else out there: this is the next generation of interactive toy.

Of course, this is what’s going to happen when you build a company populated with Carnegie Mellon Robotics PH.d.’s and similar overachievers. The founders common goal was pretty straightforward, combine robotics with software and everyday consumer products with an eye to improving the world. Lots of people are doing these very things (Nest!, Parrot to name couple), but the idea that became Anki Drive currently has no peers.

Technically an RC car, this combination of mobile device, physical components, amazing software, robotics principles and AI technology is unlike anything you’ve seen, or played with. I wonder how much of this applies to self-driving cars…

This is definitely on our ever growing want list. Is it going to be on yours?