A toy robot that uses artificial intelligence to respond to its environment started reaching consumers last week. Its name is Cozmo, and it’s on a mission to prove that advances in robotics and A.I. aren’t always scary.
Cozmo uses its A.I. to recognize faces, convey emotions, and play games. Anki — the company behind Cozmo and a line of A.I-powered toy cars — says this requires Cozmo to “process more data per second than all the Mars Rovers combined” when it interacts with the world.
Praise for Cozmo has been non-stop. “I am so loving the new member of our family!!!” one customer tweeted. “He knows my name. I may need one for the office as well!” Others have made similar comments; Cozmo has officially become the most-loved robot this side of Wall-E, the lead of the Pixar film of the same name.
Cozmo seems to have taken quite a bit of inspiration from Wall-E. Its eyes move to convey emotions, it has a dynamic soundtrack that changes with its mood, and it uses its body to great comedic effect. All of this is made possible with advanced A.I. and computer vision that allows a robot that can fit into the palm of someone’s hand to crunch the massive amounts of data required for it to act like a living being.
Anki isn’t alone in trying to deliver a friendly robot. Toyota made Kirobo Mini for the same reason, and the Elon Musk-backed OpenAI group plans to make a domestic robot so it can learn more about A.I.
Cozmo is the only robot currently available in the United States, though, and it costs just $180. That price is low enough that many people are likely to consider buying a Cozmo around the holidays: It’s a hit with kids and works with Android smartphones and iPhones so people don’t have to worry about learning convoluted new control mechanisms to use it.
Experiencing A.I. and robotics with a friendly robot like this could also drive home the point that advancements in these fields don’t have to be feared. Sure, there’s a chance they’ll lead to Skynet, but there’s also every possibility that A.I. robots will simply make our lives better.
Cozmo is like an ambassador from a future in which many people count an A.I. robot among their friends. In the meantime, it’s a fun distraction to play around with … even if it doesn’t seem like a very good sport: