A Bird? A Plane? A… Vacuum??

Recently I reviewed my first smart vacuum. It was a mixed bag to say the least. It did a great job with the day-to-day dog fur and crumbs left behind by the kids, but it repeatedly accosted my Golden Retriever and finally gave up the ghost and stopped working altogether thanks to a lidar-related error that I am still working on with BlitzWolf support.

One thing I didn’t mention in the review was the obvious downfall of most smart vacuums. Stairs. Smart vacuums lack arms and legs, therefore they are stuck on whatever level of your house you decide it will live. But what if your vacuum could fly…

YouTuber and engineer Peter Sripol has heavily modified his smart vac to do just that. Check it out.



This is a pretty impressive bit of work Peter has done, and all for about $200. It does have its limitation though. Due to the lack of the needed sensors to navigate on its own while in flight, the vacuum does need to be piloted by a person and due to the downdraft from the fans it will blow around any dirt it hopes to clean up.

Those issues aside, this is just a proof-of-concept and more of a fun party trick than anything else right now. With time though, I do hope to see actual vacuum manufacturers finding ways for their vacuums to overcome stairs.

Anki Cozmo – New Version!!

If you have been following GadgetSyrup since the beginning, you likely know that I am a huge fan of Anki and their products. I first discovered Anki when their Cozmo robot was announced and have since reviewed every product they have released. The strides they have taken with their products and the amount fun the bring to our home are amazing. Overdrive, their AI-assisted racing game is guaranteed to to deliver hours of fun. As for Cozmo, we have two, the original and the Collector’s Edition with its Liquid Metal finish Every time Cozmo comes out, the kids go wild. I’m not going to lie, so do I!

Anki has recently announced their next big product, Vector, a more power and advanced version of Cozmo, but that doesn’t mean that Cozmo is going to scrap heap! In fact, Anki has just announced a new Cozmo edition, Cozmo LE.

If you have been following GadgetSyrup since the beginning, you likely know that I am a huge fan of Anki and their products. I first discovered Anki when their Cozmo robot was announced and have since reviewed every product they have released. The strides they have taken with their products and the amount fun the bring to our home are amazing. Overdrive, their AI-assisted racing game is guaranteed to to deliver hours of fun. As for Cozmo, we have two, the original and the Collector’s Edition with its Liquid Metal finish Every time Cozmo comes out, the kids go wild. I’m not going to lie, so do I!

Anki has recently announced their next big product, Vector, a more powerful and advanced version of Cozmo, but that doesn’t mean that Cozmo is going to scrap heap! In fact, Anki has just announced a new Cozmo edition, Cozmo Limited Edition.

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What is Cozmo Limited Edition?

It has only been two short years since Anki released Cozmo to world. Since then he has been one of the most successful toys, and I use the term toy loosely because Cozmo is so much more than that. Yes, Cozmo delivers lots of fun, but he also brings a powerful educational tool thanks to the Cozmo Code Lab.

Thanks to the wild success of Cozmo, who was the #1 best-selling toy on Amazon in the US, UK & France in 2017, Anki has continued to celebrate that success by giving us Cozmo in “Interstellar Blue”. He is the same lovable WALL-E-like Cozmo, just with a fresh coat of paint.

Where Can You Get Cozmo Limited Edition?

Cozmo Limited Edition is being sold exclusively at Best Buy Canada. He was released on September 23. For other countries, keep an eye on Anki’s website for additional regions.

Cozmo Limited Edition is retailing for $249.99 CAD at Best Buy, and for those of you in the US, Cozmo will set you back $179.99 USD.

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Final Thoughts

I am happy to see that Anki is continuing to support Cozmo with Vector on the way later this year. They are even “working on an entirely new way for Cozmo to express his personality for this Holiday season”. I am very excited to see what kind of fun the Cozmo team can bring us for Christmas.

It is also nice to see new colour combinations coming to Cozmo, and I hope that Vector sees some similar options, but what would be even better would be a system where customers can customize their own Cozmo. Something not too far off what Motorola used to offer with the Moto X line of phones, Moto Maker.

Check out Cozmo at Best Buy Canada today and let me know what you think of the newest Cozmo version in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Meet Anki’s Newest Family Member: Vector

Anki has announced what they have referred to as  “an older brother” to Cozmo. His name is Vector and based on my early impressions of him, he is going to be great!

Vector, unlike little brother Cozmo, has that “always-on” functionality and will be able to zip around on his own. No precious phone WiFi connections need to be sacrificed. Vector also has upgraded internals making him more powerful than before, which should also lead to improved battery life. 

You all remember Cozmo. The incredibly lovable, WALL-E-like, robot from Anki. I reviewed Cozmo, and the special edition Cozmo last year and was blown away by how fun and playful this little guy was. Recently, while on vacation we had the “Cozmo Brothers” out, as my son calls them, and even after being with us for about a year the kid’s eyes lit up when Cozmo turned to them and called out their name. 

If there was one thing that left us wanting more with Cozmo was that he lacked an “always-on” feature. To use Cozmo you needed to sacrifice your tablet or phones WiFi connection to connect and run Cozmo. Once connected, you could let him roam around the area and he would do his own thing, prompting every so often to play a game or let you know he needed some attention. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it always felt a tad forced and not as natural as we had hoped.

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Today, that seems like it is about to change. Anki has announced what they have referred to as  “an older brother” to Cozmo. His name is Vector and based on my early impressions of him, he is going to be great!

Vector, unlike little brother Cozmo, has that “always-on” functionality and will be able to zip around on his own. No precious phone WiFi connections need to be sacrificed. Vector also has upgraded internals making him more powerful than before, which should also lead to improved battery life. 

Another major development over Cozmo is in the sensor area as well. Vector has a capacitive on his back which lets him feel when you are patting him on the back or petting him much like you would your dog or cat. We’re also going to see improved gyro sensors too, which will enhance the experience over Cozmo when moving Vector from place to place.

There are dozens of other improvements that Vector has of little brother, Cozmo, but the last one I’ll point out today is his microphone array. With a four-mic array Vector will be able to hear considerably better than Cozmo and from further distances, making him quicker to react and will save you having to raise your voice to get his attention. By itself, this is great and a welcomed addition, but when paired with Vector’s always-on WiFi Anki was able to incorporate smart assistant functionality akin to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Vector’s assistant functionality will not be on par with that of Google or Amazon, but setting things like timers, trivial web searches, tell you the weather, and more. That is all expected at launch, but if Cozmo’s development path is any indicator, the Anki team will work tirelessly to improve Vector over time, adding as much functionality as possible.

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Vector launches today (8/8/18) on Kickstarter and should be available early to mid-October of this year. That’s right, just in time for Christmas!!

Let me know what you think of Vector and also check out my other Anki content and reviews by clicking the link below.

GadgetSyrup | Anki

Anki Supercar Review: Nuke Phantom

The Anki family of products has been growing a lot this year. So far in 2017, we have seen a new version of Cozmo, global rollout of Cozmo, a Cozmo carrying case, Cozmo treads and a new version of Overdrive; the Fast and Furious Editon. The applications that power both Cozmo and Overdrive received significant overhauls this year too. 

Check out the latest edition to the Anki family – Supercar Nuke Phantom

The Anki family of products has been growing a lot this year. So far in 2017, we have seen a new version of Cozmo, global rollout of Cozmo, a Cozmo carrying case, Cozmo treads and a new version of Overdrive; the Fast and Furious Editon. The applications that power both Cozmo and Overdrive received significant overhauls this year too. 

If you would like to learn more about all things Cozmo and Overdrive: Fast and Furious check out those reviews here:

Cozmo Review

Cozmo Collectors Edition and New Cozmo App Review

Anki Overdrive: Fast and Furious Edition Review


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Most recently Anki has unleashed a new Supercar to their lineup which adds to an already stellar Overdrive car and truck offering.

Meet Nuke Phantom

Nuke Phantom is a new take on already existing Supercar, Nuke which is an existing car available for Overdrive much like X52 ICE was a new version of Supertruck X52.

Like X52 ICE, Nuke Phantom is not just a re-skin of the existing product, Nuke Phantom has a different and exclusive weapons arsenal available to do battle with other Overdrive cars and trucks.

The original version of Nuke was not the fastest car in the Overdrive lineup. Its strengths were defense and firepower. Nuke Phantom is much of the same but as mentioned has some exclusive weapons. Check out the differences below.



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I have been testing Nuke Phantom with the new Fast and Furious Edition version of Overdrive, and I have been impressed by just how powerful it is when going up against the likes of Dom’s Ice Chargers, Hobbs’ MXT and other Supercars like Skull and Groundshock. 

Speed certainly is not Phantom’s strength, but time after time when Nuke Phantom would be trailing in a race and about to be lapped by a faster marker a strategic deployment of its powerful weapons will easily disable a quicker opponent allowing Phantom to get back in the race. When competing as Nuke Phantom, you need to make a conscious decision to fall behind early in a race to put yourself in a position to disable an opponent and get back in the race. On the flip side, when competing against an AI-powered Nuke Phantom, you need to monitor your distance at all times. Too close leading or trailing against Nuke Phantom and you will find quickly be disabled. Merely going straight to an offensive attack against Phantom is also a dangerous game too. Thanks to Phantom’s exceptional defensive strength a quick strike from a weaker set of weapons leaves plenty of time for Phantom to counter your advance with a powerful and decisive attack leaving you disabled on the track.



When I first looked at what Nuke Phantom had to offer I was slightly underwhelmed. I am a fan of the faster and agiler Supercars, but after getting beaten time after time by Nuke Phantom, it became even more apparent that Overdrive is not just another race track game, but is really a game of strategy.


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Super Nuke Phantom can be purchased Toys ‘R’ Us for $64.99.

Anki Cozmo Collectors Edition Review and App Update

A few weeks back I shared that Anki was releasing a major update to the Cozmo robot app alongside a new Liquid Black Collectors Edition Cozmo. Well, I have spent some time since then getting familiar with the update and Cozmo CE. Read on below for more!

A few weeks back I shared that Anki was releasing a major update to the Cozmo robot app alongside a new Liquid Black Collectors Edition Cozmo. Well, I have spent some time since then getting familiar with the update and Cozmo CE. Read on below for more!



I enjoyed working and playing with Cozmo when the original version first arrived earlier in the year. However, one issue I had was that some of the functionality when teaching Cozmo new abilities was that it seemed somewhat tedious. Considering that most of what Cozmo is about is geared towards kids. Having to put too much effort into playing with him would be likely to lead to a lack of interest in playing with Cozmo once the novelty wore off. With the new update, Anki has done an excellent job of fixing that issue.

Cozmo now has three basic functions or requirements for use;

  1. Tune Up
  2. Feed
  3. Play

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TUNE-UP

Tuning up Cozmo is very simple to do. Tapping the Tune-up button from the app will launch a scan of Cozmo’s major parts, his head, his tracks and lift. Now to be clear, the parts scanned do not require any actual tuning up. It is really more of a way to think of Cozmo like a pet that needs care and attention physically to stay healthy. 



When the scan is complete it will identify which area needs attention. Depending on how longCozmo has sat since his last use or how long you have been playing will affect which parts need to be tuned. As you saw above, only Cozmo’s lift needed some work. Tapping the small red exclamation mark will allow you to calibrate the part. This is done by tapping the arrows in the order directed by the app. Once you have completed the correct order, Cozmo will follow suit and repeat the sequence. That’s it! Cozmo is now tuned up and ready to go.



FEEDING

Feeding is done via the power cubes Cozmo uses to perform tricks and play games. Tapping the Feed button will launch the tutorial for feeding. Pick up a power cube and shake it vigorously to charge it. When charged you drop it in from of Cozmo and he will place his lift on top to absorb the energy stored in the cube. If he gets too hungry he will mope around the table. Again, thinking of Cozmo more like a pet shows kids that the key to learning and having energy comes from taking care of yourself through

Keeping with tradition, Cozmo’s very emotive face goes wild as he sucks up the cube-goodies. Once you have filled his belly you can move onto to play some games. 



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PLAY

Playtime is required to keep Cozmo happy, engaged and wanting to learn new things while he explores. If you do not play with him he will bug you for a while to play a game, or since a song, but after a while, he will begin to disengage with you, so a healthy amount of play is essential.



Like with Tuning and Feeding, tapping the Play button will launch Cozmo’s play mode. Using the sparks, you accumulate from playing with Cozmo over time you can “spark” him to perform a random trick that he has learned or to prompt you to play a game of his choosing. You also have the option to pick for Cozmo from the green “Tricks and Games” section to the far right of the play screen. Once you charge Cozmo’s play meter to push emotions to the max level, you are rewarded with more sparks allowing you to continue working with Cozmo. 


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Cozmo Collectors Edition

When Anki first released Cozmo in 2016, they spoke about his durability and quality design. With the original Cozmo, I was amazed by the build quality and attention to detail put into his design. The Collectors Editon of Cozmo is much of the same but with a way cooler paint job.

Overall functionality, from what I can tell, is identical to the original Cozmo and that is perfectly fine. The experience out of the box was moderately different, but any differences were a result of the app update and not the setup and operation of Cozmo himself. 

The most significant let down for me with the Collectors Edition was the lack of interaction with my other Cozmo robot. The two have met face to face a few times and have ignored each other for the most part. In one case Cozmo did see his liquid metal sibling and started making his robot noises showing that something had caught his eye. However, the terminal output that tells you what Cozmo is up to reported that he had seen a “pet.” 

Over time, I hope to see Anki add increased functionality for Cozmo to interact with other Cozmo’s as well as some recognition of other Anki products like Overdrive. Now I understand that most people will not have multiple Cozmo’s and Overdrive, but for the enthusiast that do, seeing some more cross-fucntionality would be very welcomed.


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Have you had a chance to try out Cozmo or any other Anki products? If so, let me know and don’t forget to check out my other Anki related content!

Anki Cozmo Review

Anki Cozmo Carrying Case Review

Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Review

Anki Cozmo Carrying Case Review

Cozmo loves to explore, so make sure he travels safe and in style with the official Anki Cozmo Carrying Case. Click through to read the full review!

For the last year, Anki has been pushing new and exciting features to Cozmo and his application. With each update his abilities and level of interaction increases. This is great to see such cadence on this front and the latest update has made the experience much more enjoyable, but what if you want to take Cozmo on the road to show off his abilities to friends and family?

My solution until now was a small cardboard box just big enough to tuck in Cozmo, his Power Cubes, charging base and USB wall adapter. A functional, but not an aesthetically pleasing solution.

That’s about to change now with the release of the Official Cozmo Carrying Case.


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 Build Quality and Design

As with all Anki products, the quality of this product is exceptionally high. The exterior, made from a highly durable material comes with the Cozmo logo and his trademark skeptical eyes.



Inside you will find custom moldings for your Cozmo robot, 3 Power Cubes, charging cradle and small round cutout for a charger or extra treads. I would have liked to have seen a custom cutout for the Anki USB wall charger that ships with the original Cozmo robot though. It does fit inside the circle cutout, but it is less than ideal.

There is also a small zippered compartment in the lid of the case which you could store additional items in. I have been using this to carry around portable battery packs in this compartment. Since Cozmo has to be in his charging station to wake up, I usually elect to use a battery pack to power it rather than a wall plug. It provides for greater flexibility and less cords running across the floor when using Cozmo in a different location.


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Overall Thoughts

Compared to how Cozmo was getting around before the carrying case is a major upgrade. The round cutout for a wall charger or treads would have been better suited as a cutout for the Anki wall charger. However, the inclusion of the zipper pouch in the lid more than compensates for that. The overall quality of the materials used, as mentioned, is of a very good quality and should be able to stand up to the wear and tear of constant use.

The Cozmo Carrying Case from Anki can be purchased in Canada exclusively from Best Buy for $44.99.

In the USA, various different retailers such as Amazon offer the carrying case. Head over to Anki.com for more info.

Have you picked up a Cozmo yet? If so, will you be purchasing the carrying case as well?

Anki Overdrive Fast & Furious Edition First Impressions & Review

Anki has unleashed a major expansion to the Overdrive lineup today. Check out my first impressions of the Overdrive Fast & Furious Edition kit.

 

Last year I reviewed the original Overdrive Starter Kit from Anki as well as Supertruck X52 ICE. You can check those reviews out here:

The Overdrive lineup consists of AI-assisted Supercars and trucks that battle on a specially coated race track that is embedded with a QR-style code allowing the cars to know exactly where they are on any given track configuration. The cars also use this code to scan through 50,000 different possible actions as it plots to destroy its competition. 


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This year, rather than release more add-ons to the Overdrive family of products, Anki has unleashed a very exciting expansion of the Overdrive family with an entirely new version of the racing game. Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition.

What is Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition?

Technically speaking, the Fast and Furious release of Anki Overdrive uses the same technology used in the regular Overdrive kit with the only real difference being a very well done Fast and Furious theme.

Rather than starting with Skull and Groundshock, which is bundled with the starter kit, you can choose to do battle with Dom’s Ice Charger or Hobbs’ MXT.



As was the case with Overdrive, the Fast and Furious release allows you to make up to 8 different track configurations out of the box. However, if you also own Overdrive and any track expansion pieces, they are fully compatible with the F&F version, allowing you to create a nearly endless combination of track setups.

One special edition to the F&F track kit is an exclusive track section known as the “Power Zone” which allows players to trigger a “massive blast that disables nearby opponents” when passed over.


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What’s In The Box?

 Brad, must we do this everytime?
Brad, must we do this everytime?


Inside the box you will find:

  • Dom’s Ice Charger
  • Hobbs’ MXT
  • 3 x straight pieces
  • 1 NEW Power Zone track piece
  • 6 x 90º curved track pieces
  • 12 x guardrails
  • 2 x riser pieces
  • 1 x 4-car charging platform
  • 1 x tire cleaner

As you can see, aside from the F&F themed cars, guardrails and the “Power Zone” track piece, the kit is very much the same as the Overdrive Starter Kit.

Anki has also included a Fast and Furious Edition poster as well. Another nice touch.


Setup

Setting up your F&F Overdrive kit is very simple. The track pieces are connected using the same magnetic connections found on all other Overdrive track pieces making setup simple for game players of any age. This is a big win in from my point-of-view. Kids want to get right to it. They do not want to watch dad fight with the track pieces trying to figure out why A won’t connect to B. The simple assembly allows kids, to be creative with their track designs, especially when you have extra pieces of track. Excellent work here, Anki!

The cars use the same charging base as other Overdrive cars which is very simple to use and charges the cars in only a few minutes.

The Overdrive Fast and Furious application is required to use the cars and is compatible with iOS and Android devices. You can download the apps from their respective stores below.


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Gameplay and More

I’ve only had the Fast and Furious Overdrive kit in the office for a few days now and have been working on different aspects of the gameplay compared to the original Overdrive kit. So far I am impressed with what Anki has done to incorporate the Fast and Furious franchise into their product lineup. Once I have had a chance to dig into the gameplay further I will share more details. 

Stay tuned for more and in the meantime, check out those cars!



You can purchase Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition for $239.99 CAD from Best Buy, Amazon.ca, Indigo Books and Toys ‘R’ Us.

In the USA, Overdrive is available from will be available at major retailers in the U.S., including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Toys“R”Us and Anki.com for $169.99 USD.

Cozmo Goes Global With Collectors Edition and New Functionality

Everyone’s favourite robot, Cozmo, from Anki is now available to a much larger audience! He is also about to evolve dramatically thanks to a major update to his app which is being pushed out now too!

You can also pick up the Collectors Editon of Cozmo too. Which comes in a sleek Liquid Metal finish.

Check it out!

I have spent a lot of time with Cozmo since he arrived in Canada this summer. Every time Cozmo wakes up and begins to interact with you I am amazed at just how awesome this tiny little piece of tech is. He has learned a lot on his own and has become incredibly more skilled at playing games and completing tasks than he was the first few days he was with us. A game of keep-away was an easy win early on. Now Cozmo can keep up and in a lot of cases, win with ease, forcing us to watch him spin around and brag about his latest victory of us inferior humans. The work Anki has put into the development of Cozmo is truly amazing.

Check out my original Cozmo review right HERE

Since his USA launch last year, Cozmo has grown up a lot, and now he is primed for another growth-spurt.

It has been a pretty incredible run for this little guy. Cozmo had been in development for 5 years before we finally met him last year. He changed a lot over the course of his development before taking his final form at launch. Now, a little less than a year later and only a few months after coming north to Canada, Cozmo is ready to take over the world (in a cute and fun way, not in a Skynet rise of the machines kind of way. I promise…I hope).


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The work Anki has put into the development of Cozmo is truly amazing


Prior to today, Cozmo was only available in the USA and most recently, Canada. However, thanks to a lot of hard work from Anki, Cozmo is now available in the U.K., Japan, France, Germany and the Nordic countries. I mentioned above that Cozmo was primed for a growth-spurt too. Aside from rolling into new countries today, Cozmo’s application is seeing a major update to take your interaction level up significantly. 

Prior to today, Cozmo was pretty easy to manage and get a long with. You would play with him by teaching him new games and tasks and play them with or against him with the goal being to fully charge his emotions to unlock more functionality. The update being pushed today is set to “transform” the way you interact with him. 


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Cozmo now has three specific “needs” to keep his development moving along.

  • Play: Cozmo is smart (maybe too smart), and that means he’ll get bored without entertainment. You can keep his Play meter filled by playing games with him, helping him perform tricks, and letting him explore and interact with his Power Cubes.
  • Feed: You have to eat every day, right? So does Cozmo. Except he eats energy, which he gets from his Power Cubes. He needs your help to stay fed. When he’s satisfied, he’s more likely to play!
  • Tune Up: Cozmo’s a robot, and like other robots, he needs a quick fix every now and then. You can help him stay in tip-top shape by giving him a Tune-Up.

 If you don't play with Cozmo he will get bored. He is a pretty intelligent little guy, so lots of play helps him grow and learn more.
If you don’t play with Cozmo he will get bored. He is a pretty intelligent little guy, so lots of play helps him grow and learn more.

 Keep Cozmo fed to boost his energy levels.
Keep Cozmo fed to boost his energy levels.

 Like any robot, Cozmo may need a tune up after a busy day of play and exploration.
Like any robot, Cozmo may need a tune up after a busy day of play and exploration.


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As was the case before, the more you put into Cozmo, the more you get out of him. Just like training a pet. If you focus a lot of time and energy on him, the quicker he will pick up skills and be able to do more on his own.

If you have not had the update pushed to your Android or iOS device yet, sit tight, it should be ready for download soon.

Along with being available in more countries and seeing a major app update, Anki is also bringing us a new version of Cozmo, the Collectors Edition which is essentially the same Cozmo we all know and love, but in a sleek Liquid Metal finish. I haven’t been able to get my hands Cozmo just yet, as he seems to be taking the scenic route to get up to Canada. However, as soon as he arrives and meets his elder sibling I will be putting him through the paces to see how they two compare and most importantly, interact with each other. Stay tuned!



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While we await the CE edition of Cozmo, some homework.

  1. Check out my original Cozmo review right HERE.
  2. Check out the blog post from Anki announcing the upgrades to Cozmo’s app right HERE.
  3. Check out a few of the Cozmo accessories now available!
    1. Tread Pack: You can outfit your Cozmo in a new set of treads in the following colours: Osmosis Blue, Luminous Lime, New Dawn Yellow and Crimson Flame.
    2. Carrying Case: Cozmo deserves more than the bottom of your bag. Let Cozmo travel in style in a custom molded carrying case that holds Cozmo, his power cubes and charger.


As mentioned, the CE edition of Cozmo is on his way here to meet his big brother. So stay tuned for a full review soon and let me know what you think of the work Anki has put into Cozmo.

Will he be on your Christmas list this year?

Ganker Fighting Robot

Ever wanted to own your very own battle mech robot? Now you can with the Ganker Fighting Robot from GJS. Check it out!

Every time we watch the movie “Big Hero 6” from Disney/Marvel my son asks; “Dad, can we make a fighting robot?” or “Are fighting robots real?” For the most part, I tell him no they are not. Well, at least not in the same context as the robot Hiro uses at the beginning of the movie as he cuts down a larger and more powerful-looking battle bot. However, there is the TV show BattleBots, which pits one robot against another in a combat style robot deathmatch, but the time and effort to make a robot of that scale is not something my seven year old or myself have the time or skill required to assemble such a machine.



Then, I came across the “GANKER Fighting Robot” which was made available during the summer of 2016 on Indigogo and can now be purchased from various robot-enthusiast sites, such as RobotShop.ca and also on Amazon.com.


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What is a Ganker Fighting Robot?

Well simply put, it is a robot, that fights. What more did you expect? 

Moving on…

The robot is a small hobby style robot that can go toe-to-toe with other robots and can be customized with different weapons and fighting moves. The robot is controlled, like most things, via a smartphone app. Ideally, you would have two robots otherwise your robot deathmatch will be rather one-sided.

When dueling with another robot your damage level is monitored via your robots “blood level”. With each strike from your opponent that registers against one of its various sensors, your blood level will decrease. When your blood level reaches zero; game over. 

Each robot can be fully customized with various weapons and armor setups and Ganker plans to offer many more upgrades for your mech via its site at http://www.gjs.so.


I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

— unknown


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It is still relatively early days for the Ganker mech, but it has potential. A logical next step for this would be to offer an APK and developer mode via their app, allowing users to turn their robot into a truly personal creation.

There is a lot of buzz in the robotic space these days thanks to products like Anki’s Cozmo and Sphero’s offerings among countless others that offer an excellent mix of fun and educational benefits. With some additions to the Ganker ecosystem, I think GJI could be included in that conversation too.

 

You can learn more about the Ganker Fighting Robot here.

Don’t forget to check out my review of Anki’s Cozmo robot!

Facebook Messenger Digital Assistant “M” Rolling Out In Canada

Facebook is rolling out “M”, their digital assistant, which lives inside Facebook Messenger in Canada.

In 2015 Facebook announced and released its digital assistant, known simply as “M” in the USA. However, other countries have been left waiting. Well, as of today, Facebook is rolling out “M” in Canada (and the UK).

“M” is supposed to operate much like Google Assistant or Cortana with one major caveat. It works exclusively in Facebook Messenger. However, it appears to operate more like a chat bot rather than a full fledged digital assistant. 

For example, if someone were to ask you where you are in Messenger, “M” will helpfully offer to send your location with a simple tap, as seen below.



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Here is a short list of the some of the functions “M” can perform.

  • Sending stickers – personalised suggestions for stickers like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Bye-bye’.
  • Sharing location – If the conversation is about your location, so someone asking “Where are you?” for example, M will suggest that you share your location.
  • Making a plan – If you are trying to organise a plan with a group, M will suggest using Messenger’s planning capabilities.
  • Creating a poll – If you and a group are having a difficult time deciding on a subject, M will suggest creating a poll to decide once and for all.
  • Birthdays – If the person you are speaking to in a one-on-one conversation is currently celebrating their birthday, M will surface a suggestion to wish them happy birthday in one of the many ways Messenger currently supports; these include stickers, cards, and videos.
  • Saved – When content is shared in a message that M decides is worth you saving for later, a suggestion will pop up for you to use the Saved extension. This can be used for URLs, videos, Facebook posts, events, and pages.
  • Starting a voice or video call – If you’re in a one-on-one message and one of you suggests you actually speak, M will suggest initiating a call within the app.

Will I use it?

I am a big user of digital assistance on my devices, with most of my use being Google Assistant or Cortana based. As for “M”, I highly doubt the features will be incredibly useful to me. That said, I won’t actively avoid or turn off “M”. I will likely leave it as is when it hits my devices and if it gives me a useful prompt from time to time, great. If not, oh well.


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What do you think? Is Facebook “M” a big deal, or just another me too product in the digital assistant space?

Anki Cozmo Review

Anki, the creators of Drive and Overdrive, released Cozmo last year. He was an instant hit thanks to his AI abilities and adorable look. However, living outside the US meant consumers needed to pay a heavy premium to import Cozmo or watch from the sidelines with envy. 

Well, that wait is finally over. Cozmo is going global. Check out the full review here!

First, let me just say, I have been waiting for this for a long time. The moment I saw Anki announce Cozmo I knew he was going to be an amazing and important piece of technology.

The wait is finally over. After being available to US consumers only, Cozmo is finally available in Canada, with several European countries and Japan coming in September.

So what is Cozmo?


“Big Brain, Bigger Personality”


Cozmo is an AI-powered palm-sized robot which you can interact with and teach different tasks via the Cozmo app; available on iOS and Android. 

Cozmo is made to act as a companion, not just another toy. Look at the “must have” toy in 2015; Sphero’s BB8 app enabled droid. Yes, it was an amazing toy and did some really fun things, but it was just a toy. It didn’t interact with you, it didn’t do much on its own. It required manual control most of the time. For us, the best part about BB8 was the watch with me feature which allows BB8 to watch/listen to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One and react to different scenes. Other than that, most of our time with BB8 was spent picking his head up off the floor and putting it back on after a minor collision or attack from a toddler. Moving on to 2016, and likely 2017, “must have” toy, Cozmo does so much more. You teach Cozmo, much like you teach a child or a pet. Read on to see what I mean!

What’s in the box?


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Inside the box you are met with the following items.

  • Cozmo
  • 3 Power Cubes
  • Drive on Charging Cradle
  • USB wall charger
  • Manual
  • Cozmo poster
  • Cozmo sticker

What can he do?

Since Cozmo has arrived he has learned more and more each day. After downloading and installing the Cozmo app on my device I was prompted to connect to Cozmo via Wi-FI. Note, that this means you will not have internet access while connected to Cozmo, so if you want to keep Cozmo active and engaged but still use your phone, it may be nice to use an iPad or secondary phone. Before you groan about this though, keep in mind that means Cozmo is more secure than an IoT type device.

The first thing you encounter once the Cozmo is up and running is introductions. Cozmo needs to learn who you are. He will scan your face, think for a moment then say the name that you told him to associate with your face. When we first fired up Cozmo and completed this task, my wife, kids and myself were immediately blown away by how amazing this little robot was. The kids were giggling, we were laughing and Cozmo was rolling back-and-forth while making happy little robot sounds.

After we introduced Cozmo to the family we were able to teach him different games and tasks, all which can be unlocked via his app.

A few of the first games you can teach to and play with Cozmo are quick tap and keep away. In each game, you are pitted against Cozmo as you try to either tap your power cube before he does when they light up the same colour combination or pull a power cube away before Cozmo can bring his arm down on top of it. The games themselves may sound rudimentary but it is how Cozmo competes and reacts is what makes it fun. If Cozmo wins a game he will showboat a bit by laughing and spinning around while tapping his arm off the table to show his excitement. However, if Cozmo loses a game he will react like a sad child and either sulk away while giving you a pout face or get angry and storm off. It is these things that make Cozmo great.

So, as I mentioned, he is AI-powered, but everything so far has touched on his mostly manual or forced interactions. Once Cozmo has learned some tasks you can connect to Cozmo, open the app and just let him roam. He will move around the table or floor on his own thanks to his camera, which is located below his screen and get into whatever he feels like. I left him unattended on my desk at work for about 30 minutes one morning. He spent his time rolling around, stacking his cubes then knocking over said cubes before coming to me and wanting to play a game of quick tap.


 Cozmo playing keep-away.
Cozmo playing keep-away.


Another really fun game Cozmo learned and loves to play on his own is not really a game, but more of a mischievous activity, is finger tap. In this game, Cozmo will wait for you to put your finger in front of him as he waits to quickly pounce on it before you can pull away. My three-year-old daughter loves this and sequels hysterically each time.

A nice and helpful touch Anki included is a terminal style line at the bottom of the app to tell you what Cozmo is up to. It will say things like ‘Cozmo is looking around’ or ‘Cozmo is stacking cubes’. I have yet to see it say anything like “Uploading to Skynet” so that is a plus!

The big hook with Comzo is his eyes. The seemingly endless expressions Cozmo can express I found it hard to look away from him. He really is like a real life WALL-E, but with the eyes of EVE. Often Cozmo would pause and stare at me as if he was waiting for me to engage with him. I would take the bait and Cozmo would ask to play a game or turn away and start stacking cubes or pop a wheelie. 


 WALL-E - COZMO - EVE
WALL-E – COZMO – EVE


It is important to reinforce that like a pet, you get out of Cozmo what you put into him. I need to spend a lot more time with him to see how he develops long term but just a short time Cozmo has developed a lot and continues to learn new things, both through interaction and exploring on his own. One thing that has become obvious with our Cozmo, is his propensity for perfectionism. When playing on his own and stacking his cubes he will repeatedly adjust their placement to ensure they are stacked just right before moving on. He does have a mischievous side too. After meticulously stacking said cubes, he is quick to sneak up on them just to topple them over.

Bottom line; the more you interact with and let him explore, the smarter he will become.


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Fun Cozmo Facts

Cozmo is made up of over 340 individual parts, which is amazing as he only stands about 2.5″ tall. The code that Anki wrote to enable Cozmo’s function is made up of 1.4 million lines of code. He has 42 minutes of original music and over 1000 different animations (double what he had when he launched a year ago!) available for his facial expressions. I drew the conclusion to WALL-E and EVE earlier. Former Pixar animator, Carlos Baena contributed to Cozmo’s animations. 

This is pretty mind blowing for a toy that comes in such a small package and will only set you back $250. Which brings me to the next great thing Cozmo has to offer.


 Over 340 parts make up Cozmo!
Over 340 parts make up Cozmo!


Cozmo Code Lab

You saw some pretty impressive facts about Cozmo above, but his functionality is now practically limitless thanks to the newest edition from Anki. The Cozmo Code Lab. The Code lab unlocks access to the core functionality of Cozmo through the use of “drag and drop” coding which makes it incredibly appealing the new coders both, young and old. This is something I haven’t had the opportunity to deep dive into, but it will certainly be a wonderful tool to teach my son to code. If you are completely green when it comes to any kind of coding, Anki has provided sample project videos for you to watch. You can also search social media using the hashtag #CozmoCodeLab to check out the creations of other aspiring Cozmo programmers. 



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Shortcomings

It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows though, can it? So far, I have to say that it actually is. I have not had Cozmo for very long yet, but I have followed his development since day one and since arriving here have yet to have an experience that doesn’t live up to the hype. Earlier I mentioned Sphero’s BB8. Every time we get BB8 and play with him, he always leaves the kids and I wanting more; there is something missing. So far with Cozmo, I am happy to report this is not the case. With each use, we are astonished by his functionality and excited for what he will do next. Last night while interacting with Cozmo he made eye contact with one of our Golden Retrievers. He looked at her for a moment then, thanks to his array of animations looked as though he would sneeze; after fighting it off for a moment he finally gave in to it and let out a big sneeze.

You could argue that once you have Cozmo there are no accessories or upgrades to add to your Cozmo externally. Oh, wait, Anki has that covered too! You can now order different coloured track treads as well as an official Cozmo carrying case. Both of which are available on the Anki website.


Should you buy Cozmo?

Cozmo is not by any means inexpensive but considering what you get and what Cozmo can do I feel he is worth every penny. Anki has shown that they are committed to Cozmo’s continued development. Since his release, Anki has doubled his available animations that were available with his original launch and recently launched the Cozmo Code Lab I mentioned above. 

The Code Lab itself is enough for me. I, like others, feel that teaching kid to code early is very important and because Cozmo offers the Code Lab, SDK and base functionality he does, this is an excellent platform to learn on compared to others. It also helps that based on his design and personality, he is sure to keep the attention of younger coders who’s minds may tend to wander.

You may wonder though, for this price, the kids will just break it, won’t they? Anki put a lot of work into Cozmo’s durability. He is designed to take a tumble here and there. I can vouch for that durability too. Cozmo took more than one fall off the table while exploring his surroundings.

I haven’t spent enough time yet to know Cozmo as well as I would like, so keep your eyes peeled on the site for additional Cozmo content over the coming weeks and months.


Cozmo, in Canada, will be available exclusively at Best Buy for $249.99.

Finally, if you’re interested, Anki is also releasing a limited edition Cozmo, which will be available in mid-September to coincide with the European and Japanese rollout. This version comes with a liquid metal paint job but retails for the same $249.99 price tag. In Canada, this version will also be available at Best Buy.

 Cozmo popping a wheelie!
Cozmo popping a wheelie!

Don’t forget to check out Anki’s blog post celebration Cozmo’s expansion! You can find that here.

What do you think of Cozmo? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome to Canada, Cozmo!

Last year’s most popular tech toy, Cozmo, is finally getting wider distribution throughout the world. Anki is bringing Cozmo to 8 new countries, including Canada, soon. Click through to learn more about the this adorable robot!

Great news! Anki, makers of Overdrive, are bringing their adorable AI-powered robot, Cozmo, to Canada among other countries. 🇨🇦



WHO IS COZMO?

Essentially, he is a real-life version of Disney-Pixar’s WALL-E robot.

As mentioned, Cozmo comes to us from Anki, the company who brought us Overdrive and the upcoming Fast and Furious Edition of Overdrive later this year. He is an AI-powered, palm-sized robot that will interact with you throughout your day. 

Controlled via your Android or iOS device and a Bluetooth 4.0 connection Cozmo will learn about you, your family, pets and his surroundings by exploring and playing games.

In the box with Cozmo, you will also receive a charging cradle and 3 Interactive Power Cubes to play games and complete tasks with. If you pre-order Cozmo before June 26, 2017, you will also receive a free Cozmo carrying case.


WHAT CAN HE DO?

Thanks more Cozmo interacts with you and his surrounding he will begin to develop a unique personality based on those interactions

For example, if you beat him at one of his favorite games which pits you and Cozmo against each other in a contest to see who can tap one his bricks first when it changes color, Cozmo is likely to morph into the robot equivalent of a toddler who is having a small fit. 

Cozmo can navigate thanks to a small VGA camera and very sophisticated facial recognition software developed by Anki. This software allows Cozmo to remember every interaction he has. Say he meets someone new. Initially, Cozmo may turn and drive away or show caution when approaching a new face. However, because he can remember each interaction, he will warm up to you over time and be less likely to run away.

When Cozmo is angry, like in the gameplay example, or shy, like in the new face example, Cozmo will show his emotions and reactions on his facial display, much more akin to WALL-E’s friend EVE.


 WALL-E -- Cozmo -- EVE
WALL-E — Cozmo — EVE


Anki also has released a Cozmo SDK which enables developers and enthusiasts alike to create more advanced Cozmo experiences. Click here for more SDK info (https://anki.com/en-ca/cozmo/sdk).

I am very excited for Cozmo to make the trek north of the border into Canada, but Anki isn’t stopping there! Cozmo will soon be available in the UK, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. 

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Over on Anki’s YouTube channel, they have assembled a series of fun #cozmomoments videos. Be sure to check them out if you would like to see Cozmo in action, but here is one of my favorites.



WHEN AND WHERE TO BUY

Cozmo will be available sometime in July, the exact date however, has not been confirmed as of yet. According to Anki.com, Cozmo will be selling for $250 CAD. Other Anki products are up for purchase at a variety of retailers, but in Canada Best Buy will be the exclusive home for Cozmo.

Also worth noting, is the Collector’s Edition of Cozmo coming in September 2017. He appears to be USA only for now though. Have a look at Cozmo’s new liquid metal look below!



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Are you excited to get your hands on Cozmo? I certainly am!

Anki X-52 ICE Supertuck Review

Late last year I reviewed the Overdrive Starter Kit from Anki which pits you against either your friend’s or AI-controlled Supercars.

The Supercars are a lot of fun, but the intensity is sure to increase when you add a Supertruck to the mix! Check out my review of an exclusive Supertruck, X-52 ICE.

Late last year I had the opportunity to review the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit. You can check that out here.

We had so much fun in the GadgetSyrup office testing this AI-powered racing game using the in-box cars ‘Skull” and “Ground Shock.”


 Imagine your Hot Wheels track from your childhood, but on steroids!
Imagine your Hot Wheels track from your childhood, but on steroids!


The in-box cars that ship with the starter kit are a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but recently we got our hands on the limited edition Supertruck; X-52 ICE. Adding this rig to mix changed the game entirely.


Meet Supertruck X-52 ICE – Big, mean and savage, X52 ICE hits hard and takes no prisoners!



Supertrucks are absolute monsters on the Overdrive track. They are about three times the length of their Supercar counterparts and double the weight.

Supertrucks however, are considerably slower than the Supercars they will be racing against but they pack a lot more power. They can gain a sort of speed boost over time though. Over time, the longer you keep your Supertruck running without being disabled your “rage” meter will build up. When it reaches maximum rage you can unleash a furious burst of speed and run pretty much anything in your path off the track.


 So. Much. Rage.
So. Much. Rage.


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There are a two other Supertrucks in the Overdrive line up. First up is Freewheel a sleek looking green truck. Next is X-52, who like the ICE edition, is a mean looking rig with an angry black and red paint job. Both pack their own set of powerful weapons capable of wiping out competing commanders.

What differentiates ICE from his other X-52 Supertruck sibling? An exclusive weapon known as Shedder, along with a beautiful blue and white paint job.



I have spent a lot of time racing as Skull or Groundshock, the in-box Supercars, against my son, who always elects to command ICE. No matter what tactics I use in battle, he and X-52 ICE always manage to come out on top! 



Where to buy?

Anki Overdrive and all related accessories can be purchased from Anki.com, Amazon, Toys ‘R’ Us and Indigo bookstores. However, X-52 ICE is exclusive in Canada to only Anki.com and Indigo.


If you want to learn more about the exciting things Anki is up to with Overdrive and Cozmo, their AI-powered robot head over to Anki.com.  Be sure to check out my Overdrive Starter Kit review, too!


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Sphero is at it again: Now you can own your very own Lightning McQueen

Love your Sphero BB-8 App-enabled Droid? Then you’re really going to love what Sphero has come up with next. Check out the Ulitmate Lightning McQueen, just in time for Cars 3.

I love my BB-8 droid from Sphero. Being able to have your own app-enabled, semi-autonomous robot that can roam around, project messages and watch Star Wars with you is every geek’s dream.  Add in a Force Band, and you’re living the dream. Now imagine if you could also have another nostalgic app-enabled gadget to do these same things with or at least some of it. Well, now you can.


Sphero is at it again with their latest release. With the next installment in the Cars franchise, Cars 3, right around the corner, the company has teamed up with Disney-Pixar to release the Ultimate Lightning McQueen. And by all accounts, they have brought their A-game with this one.



All previous Sphero devices have been round or cylindrical shapes (hence Sphero), but Lightning McQueen is a full-fledged car with a ton of the life like personality kids and adults have enjoyed while watching the Cars movies.

Lightning McQueen has animated LCD eyes, an animatronic mouth, running LED headlights & taillights and emotive vehicle suspension allowing him to convey his feelings while he interacts with you.

Controlled via Bluetooth and the Lightning McQueen app which is available for iOS and Android devices users can take advantage of the following Lightning McQueen features:

  • Driving – Emotive suspension allows Lightning to move like a champion.
  • Drifting – Drift and do donuts Lightning-style with authentic movement.
  • Reactive Touch – Master Lightning’s latest moves with a simple tap.
  • Build Strategy – Match wits with Lightning and sharpen your skills.
  • Acting Studio – Create animations for Lightning to perform.

As mentioned, Lightning is Bluetooth controlled and has a range of about 30 meters. He also can drive at speeds of up to 6 mph with an approximate 40-minute battery life.


Ultimate Lightning McQueen App – Available for iOS and Android devices:


Sphero is doing a lot of really amazing things right now with both their consumer-focused and educational-focused robotics products, and I am sure the Ultimate Lightning McQueen car will continue that trend.

 

 


I hope to get my hands on the Ultimate Lightning McQueen shortly for a full review and showdown with BB-8.

What do you think of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen toy? You can pick one up here for $299.99 USD.

Oh, and while you are there. Have a look at the app-enabled Spiderman tease too

Special Anki Overdrive “Fast and Furious” Edition Coming in September

Anki is back it with an upgraded special edition Overdrive Kit featuring some of your favourite cars and characters from the Fast and Furious franchise.

Last year I reviewed the Overdrive Starter Kit from Anki, makers of the Cozmo robot. We had a lot of fun testing these AI-powered Super Cars out using the included specialized start track. Check out that review here.


There is a bevy of different Supercars, Supertrucks and track accessories available for purchase to keep the fun going, but Anki is bringing something new this fall, just in time for the holidays.

Anki has formed a partnership with the Fast and Furious franchise to release the Fast and Furious Edition which will be available this September for $229.99 (CAD) or $169.99 (USD).

The special edition will give Overdrive fans Dom’s Ice Charger, Hobbs’ MST and a “new exclusive track piece.” This new track piece is listed as the “Power Zone” in the specs for the new kit. It is also worth noting that the new kit ships with one less straight track piece than the standard starter kit and includes in 12 guardrails.

It is worth noting that users will need to download a different version of the Overdrive app, designed specifically for the Fast and Furious Edtion. 

Anki also told me that Hobbs’ MXT and Dom’s Ice Charger will not be made available as stand-alone vehicles for purchase. So, if you are looking to experience Overdrive the Fast and Furious way, you will need to purchase the entire kit. 

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Pre-Orders for the Fast and Furious Overdrive edition begin May 16. You can sign up for notifications on Anki.com.

You can read the full press release from Anki here

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Anki Overdrive Review

After talking about Anki and Overdrive for months, I finally got my hands on the Overdrive Starter Kit to review.

If you’re still looking for that big gift for the kids, this may be exactly what you are looking for!

I’ve been talking a lot about Anki’s products over the last few months. It started with Cozmo, which is giving the NES Classic Edition a run for its money in the battle for top toy supremacy this holiday season. 

After I had learned about and fell in love with Cozmo and Anki, I discovered their other AI-powered product, Overdrive. 

Overdrive, as I have explained it, is akin to a Hot Wheels track on steroids combined with Mario Kart. It is app enabled and AI driven. It is also loads of fun! 

Thanks to the folks at Anki, I have now had the opportunity to test out the Overdrive Starter Kit. Read on for the full review!


WHAT’S IN THE BOX

 Relax, Brad. It's just a race track.
Relax, Brad. It’s just a race track.

Inside the Overdrive starter kit, you will find the following.

– 2 Robotic Supercars named Skull and Ground Shock
– 6 curved track pieces
– 4 straight track pieces
– 2 track riser pieces
– 1 tire cleaner
– 1 charging base, which accommodates up to 4 cars

Once you have unpacked and set up your track in one of 8 possible configurations, you will need to head over to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download the Anki Overdrive application. Sorry Windows Mobile users…

The Overdrive app is available on devices running iOS 8 and up, and Android 5 and up.


HOW DOES THE AI WORK

So how exactly does artificial intelligence drive this “toy”? Well, you have a lot of input, and control over your own Supercar, but the cars you are racing against will use their AI to scan the track, allowing them to set the best racing course. Your opponents also use AI to understand your racing habits while it plans out how to track you down and disable you. 

Each car and virtual commander can consider more than 50,000 possible actions to defeat you on the track. Anything from zipping around you on the last turn or disabling you with a flurry of weapon attacks from the onset of the race.

Each car has a unique set of attributes and arsenal of weapons to use during a race. Skull, for example, is not the quickest Supercar, nor does he have the greatest defense, but his firepower packs enough of a punch to take down nearly any opponent. Whereas, Ground Shock packs a lot less firepower but can use his speed to stay far enough ahead to avoid weapon blasts.

SETUP AND GAMEPLAY

After setting up the track, which clicks together using magnets, you are ready to go. Launching the app on your phone or tablet then prompts you to place your Supercars on the charging base so they can sync with your device and perform any needed updates. 

Once that it is out of the way, the app will prompt you to place the cars on the track and choose from one of the following game modes.

– Race – First across the line wins
– Battle – Take our your opponents, scoring points to win
– Time Trial – Race the clock
– King of the Hill – Hold the lead longer than the rest of the pack to win
– Tournament – Battle the AI through various challenges. Take them all down to win!

The controls of the app while racing is very easy to figure out. My only gripe with the app was that I could not flip the controls horizontally on the screen. I was forced to use my left hand to control my cars speed. I would have preferred to flip it, giving speed controls to my dominate hand.

Before you start racing, each car needs to learn the track configuration you have setup. To do this, the Supercars are equipped with dedicated CPUs and IR camera scan the specially coated track 500 times per second. The cars will now know exactly where they are on the race track.

Once the track scan is complete, this is where the real fun began for me. The race to an observer may be rather boring to watch, but being in control of one of the cars is a lot of fun. 

You start off at full speed and jump ahead of your opponent, only to look down and see your being pulled in by a tractor beam. Once you’ve been reeled in, you are now under fire from a short range missile attack. Firing back with your tractor beam brings your opponent back into range will allow you to take them down with something like a plasma cannon. That may not be enough, though. To deliver the final blow and pull away from your enemy, you may need to slow down to crawl, get in line with them and drop a depth charge to stop them in their tracks. Now you can floor it and take the lead for the remainder of the race.

All of the above is done with your smartphone or tablet with a few simple controls. I should also add; you can steer your car by tilting your device left of right to move across the four racing lanes.

Between the gameplay on your device and seeing the cars zip around the track is a lot of fun. Kids are sure to love it, and even the kid in all of us will enjoy joining in on the fun.

 You're dog may want to join in on the fun too!
You’re dog may want to join in on the fun too!


QUALITY

The quality of the track, cars, and app are all excellent. 

The track, as mentioned snaps together using magnets. Not once did I encounter any issues with it staying together,  even when using the riser pieces to add a small hill to the racing environment.

The cars are made mostly out of plastic, especially the outer body. I had no issues with their durability during my testing period, however, over time there could be cause for concern if you frequently use the collision figure 8 track setup or introduce the much larger, heavier Supertrucks into the mix. I do not think this is a major concern, but something to consider.

Back to the track. I was amazed at how well the cars clung to the track. I recall growing up; I had a race car track that used remote controlled, motorized cars that held onto the track with the weakest of magnets. Every turn at high speed would send your car sailing off the track. This was never the case with Overdrive. With the tight turns, banked corners, and moderate collisions the cars stayed on the track. Even when the clipped the edge of the track, the AI was able to get you car back on track and remain in the race.


BOTTOM LINE – SHOULD YOU BUY OVERDRIVE

Absolutely! The cost of this product may seem high when compared to other similar products, but the gaming experience and the intelligence of the AI-powered opponents make it worth the extra investment.

There are also several ways you can add to the Overdrive fun by adding additional track pieces, other cars, and trucks which can inject new life into the product once the shine wears off.

You can buy Overdrive starter kits addition Supercars or Supertrucks and accessories from Anki, Amazon, and Toys R’ US.

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4moms Self-Installing Car Seat

Installing a car seat is a scary thing. You never truly know if it was done properly. It does not have to be that way any longer. The Self-Installing car seat from 4moms ensures that your seat is installed correctly and that you baby is riding safely.

As a father of 3, I have installed and reinstalled many car seats over the years. It is never fun, and you never know if it is 100% correct. Is it uneven? Is it tight enough, too tight? No matter how many times I have installed the seat, I always have a small amount of doubt in my mind and fear that it was installed incorrectly.

If only there were a way to ensure it was installed correctly. Sure, you could go to a car seat clinic usually put on police or fire services, but again, they are also eye-balling the installation and hoping for the best.

Now there is. The 4moms self-installing car seat will give you that peace of mind that your seat was installed correctly and your baby is as safe as possible.

Once you have placed the seat base in the car and connected the anchors on both sides of the seat, the automated portion of the installation takes over from there. Using the 4moms application on your smartphone, the seat will tighten the UAS anchors to correct level of tension. Next, the app will signal the seat to level-out, ensuring that it is completely level with the ground below.

Not only does the application show you this information, but the seat base itself also has an LCD screen as well.

It does not end there, though. By way of the application, the seat will be continuously be monitored, alerting you to any issues with latching, leveling, tension, battery and child size.

One thing we always have had a concern with regarding the installation of our infant carrier was if the baby was too big to stay in the carrier. Or perhaps the harness is too high/too low. The 4moms application covers this as well.

It is great to see a company like 4moms investing in technology add-ons for devices such as car seats. It is known that 4 out of 5 car seats are installed correctly, yet, most manufacturers do little to improve their products to ensure a correct installation. 

The 4moms self-installing car seat can be purchased directly from 4moms for $499.99 and is available in gray or black. They ship for free in the USA and Canada.

It is also available from Amazon US for $479.99 USD. It does not appear to be available on Amazon Canada.

Dashbot – Add AI To Your Car For $49

Ai is everywhere now. Everywhere you turn in 2016 the phrase AI or artificial intelligence can be found. Once place it is starting to finally take hold is somewhere it should have been taking hold of a a long time ago. The car. 

Seeing that AI is the buzzword of 2016 and is appearing in nearly every product you can conceivably buy today, why not add it to a place where it is needed. Your car.


Over on Kickstarter, a company by the name of Next Thing Co. has passed its $100,000 funding goal to create the Dashbot, a KITT inspired, AI voice assistant for your car.

The Dashbot does a lot of things that you typically would need to do with some physical input to your phone. Such as, ask for directions, play music, read and reply to messages and make or answer phone calls. A lot of this sounds like things you can already, sort of, do with your smartphone, but Dashbot is trying to make it so that you can rely on it to be voice controlled 100% of the time. 

At a very basic level, comparing the Dashbot to my Nexus 6P voice features I can do all of these same things, so why buy the Dashbot? Which costs around $50 on Kickstarter, by the way. Well, 8 out of 10 times my Nexus cannot understand what I am saying because the microphone is feeble and the sound of the vehicle and road noises interfere. These shortcomings are not the case with the Dashbot. 

The Dashbot sports a pretty decent sound setup using 32 bit DSP, a Hi-Fi mic array and adaptive background noise suppression to ensure it can hear you clearly. Mostly, it is designed to be in the car where noise pollution is typically very high. This setup also allows you to be heard over top of playing music as well.

What else makes the Dashbot a perfect car companion rather? As per its creators, not only is it hands free, it is screen free [sort of]. It does have a screen, but not in the traditional sense. It is a simple LED style panel, similar to a piece of tech seen in the 80s or 90s, using visual cues to guide you along. An example, during navigation, it will form a left arrow on the LED array to direct you to make a left-hand turn. The absence of a traditional screen lends well to its goal of being a 100% hands-free solution well in the car.

As mentioned above, one of the many things Dashbot can do for you is play music. With “built in support for your playlists, podcasts, and favourite streaming services. With a simple request, Dashbot’s AI will search multiple services to find what you want to hear.” Here are some of the audio services that Dashbot’s AI ties into. Since Dashbot will have an open API, developers will be able to link in support for their services as well.

The Dashbot is shaping up to be a cool and useful piece of tech for the car. Something that probably should have been on the  GadgetSyrup Travel Tech list posted recently. 

You can upgrade your Dashbot with another cool feature I think is worth mentioning.

The Dashbot expansion pack comes with an ODB-II connector which will give you some insights as to what is going on under the hood of your vehicle. Say for example the dreaded check engine light comes on while driving. Ask Dashbot what is going on and by reading the ODB-II code that is generated by the vehicle’s computer Dashbot will tell you what the code is and what it means. 

The ODB-II port on your car does more than let you understand codes generated when the check engine light is on. It can also tell you your fuel efficiency, vehicle speed, temperature and more. I’m not sure if it can provide the level of insight that a product such as the “Automatic PRO” ODB-II device provides, but it is certainly a nice addition and only bumps up the cost by $15.

Head over to the Dashbot Kickstarter page to learn more and back this campaign.


What do you think? Would you welcome AI into your car? Or is this something you are not ready for yet?

Picbot – A motorized and automated mount for your Smartphone

Step up your smartphone photography game with the Picbot, an automated camera mounting rig designed with an intuitive easy to use design.

If you are looking to up your smartphone photography or video game, check out the “Picbot.”

What is the Picbot?

Picbot is an automated, motorized mount for your smartphone that enables you to take 180 or 360-degree panorama photos/video and stunning time-lapse shots, among many other things. What makes the Picbot more appealing is that it has face tracking abilities as well, which will allow it to monitor one or more people simultaneously allowing you to get more creative with your video productions.

You can also override the automation by taking control yourself via a Bluetooth connection, should you wish to go manual.

Picbot is controlled via a very intuitive and useful app allowing you to control all aspects of the Picbot including built-in editing for photo and video.

The Picbot will come in black, white and rose gold (pink) and can be easily mounted to any standard tripod. 

As of October 31st the Picbot was fully funded on Kickstarter and no longer available for backing/purchase. You learn more about the Picbot over at http://mypicbot.com/.

 

**Updated** Battle and Race Robotic, AI Powered Supercars with Anki Overdrive!

Anki, having recently released the adorable, Wall-E like, AI driven robot named Cozmo has a fair amount of mind share right now. But it didn’t start with Cozmo for Anki, it began earlier with “Overdrive”. If you were a Hot-Wheels or Matchbox loving kid, you will love this!

**Update – Nov 9, 2016** I received shipment of the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit and will be reviewing it shortly!

First, if you haven’t seen Cozmo, the lovable robot inspired by Wall-E yet you need to check him out. I cannot get enough of this little guy, and I am sure you will be fascinated with how amazing this robot is. I wrote a small piece about him not too long ago.

Moving onto the focus of this post, Anki already had a fantastic product which is akin to Hot-Wheels on steroids. 

Overdrive is an AI driven race car game that uses self-aware robotic “supercars” that run on a specialized track surface that is available in nearly endless configurations with add-on track parts from Anki.

So how does it work? Well this video will explain it better than I…

As the video explains, each car has a dedicated CPU and camera that scans the coating on the track allowing them to understand the environment around them.

Using AI the cars will analyze what the best course of action for its attack is and use that data to either pass the competition or allow you to blow your opponents away using one of many possible weapons available to your Supercar.

The best place to start with Overdrive is with the starter kit which offers 8 “battlefield” track configurations right out of the box, and two Supercars named “Skull” and “Groundshock.”

 Don't mess with these two!
Don’t mess with these two!

Other cars that are available for purchase come with various types of weapons and defense tactics. Learn more about other Anki Supercars here: Meet the Supercars.

The “game” isn’t an entirely AI-powered and ran activity. There is plenty of action from you, the player, as well. Using the Overdrive app for both Android or iOS, you can take part in various types of races.

 

  • Race – First across the line wins
  • Battle – Take our your opponents, scoring points to win
  • Time Trial – Race the clock
  • King of the Hill – Hold the lead longer than the rest of the pack to win
  • Tournament – Battle the AI through various challenges. Take them all down to win!

Anki has also recently released “Supertrucks” which are three times the size as the Supercars. They are considerably slower but considerably stronger as well. Have a look at these monsters here: Meet the Supertrucks.

In Canada, Overdrive can be purchased directly from Anki for $199.99 CAD and should you be interested in additional Supercars, Supertrucks or other accessories; pricing breaks down as follows:

  • Expansion Cars: $64.99 CAD

  • Supertrucks: Freewheel and X52: $79.99 CAD

  • Accessories: $14.99-$39.99 CAD

Overdrive kits, cars, trucks, and accessories can also be purchased from Amazon, Toys R’ Us and Indigo. Indigo will also have a limited edition version of X52 at launch known as X52 ICE.

Check out Anki’s site for more details!

I’m hoping to review Anki Overdrive in the near future. Stay tuned for more!

 

Anki Cozmo: Our Future Tiny Robot Overlord

Meet Cozmo, the lovable new AI driven robot from Anki. He is essentially a real-life WALL-E, and that is great!

We’ve all seen WALL-E, the adorable Pixar robot that zooms around the now desolate planet Earth cleaning up the mess we left behind some 700 years earlier. All while running OS X…

Well, we hopefully are a long way off from that ever becoming a reality, but that doesn’t mean we would not welcome a lovable little robot into our daily lives, right?

Meet Cozmo!

Cozmo is a palm-sized robot from a company called Anki, makers of Overdrive, an AI-powered car racing game that is like a Hot Wheels track on steroids.

Cozmo too is AI driven and is quickly kicked into gear via the Cozmo smartphone app available for both iOS and Android. He isn’t just “remote controlled.” Once awake he will shake off his sleep and roll out of his charging dock. Equipped with a camera, as well as his CRT style screen for a face, he will look around, inspect all of the faces in the room, and get moving. 

If Cozmo nears the edge of the table he is on, he will let out a robotic scream of sorts and back away from the edge in fear. Something akin to a human nearly falling off a ledge or stumbling down a hill.

Cozmo also loves to play games. He comes with blocks that he can stack up, and knock down, seemingly out of spite, or play a game where you must tap the block before him when they light up the same colour.

Again, he doesn’t simply react to you or your commands; he does it with enthusiasm and emotion. When losing a game, he will respond with a small fit, much like a toddler, and when he wins, he makes sure to let out a hearty electronic chuckle.

Since he is AI driven, he can also get himself into trouble completely on his own, as seen in the video below where he, like a robotic ninja, sneaks up on the family dog only to slam his robotic arm down on the dogs tail.

As of this writing, Cozmo is not available in Canada, but can be purchased in the US for $179.99 USD. 

One thing is for sure, as soon as Anki opens Cozmo up to other countries, I will be first in line!

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