Cozmo is the brainchild of AI and robotics company Anki. He’s a little robot with a big personality and a creature that looks like a bulldozer but behaves like Pixar’s WALL-E. Cozmo is smart enough to sense his surroundings, recognize faces, and convey emotions.
Packaging done right
This is my first Anki product, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Cozmo. The box is without a doubt aesthetically pleasing. Cozmo rests inside behind a clear plastic, making him visible to the consumer. Inside are the neatly packaged wireless charger, “power cubes,” and quick start guides. The wireless charger works as a docking station for Cozmo to recharge. Power cubes (I enthusiastically call them “Cozmo cubes”) light up and keep Cozmo entertained.
Cozmo comes affixed to his own sort of trophy mount to ensure he doesn’t get bruised during shipping. In fact, I’ve kept the box to neatly display Cozmo in the future. It’s that nice.
Cozmo’s core functionality relies on a companion app. Available on iOS and Android devices, the app connects to Cozmo via Wi-Fi. There are numerous activities and games within the app, and new ones can be unlocked as you play with Cozmo. Quick tap is played by tapping a power cube quicker than Cozmo when the colors match. Another game, Keepaway, challenges users to keep a power cube out of Cozmo’s reach. The games are fun, but Cozmo’s reactions are the best part. Like a toddler, Cozmo reacts with excitement and glee if he wins or sulks in a frustrated manner if he loses in a game.
In-game currency is spent to unlock said features; “Energy, Bits, and Sparks” each carry their own value and can be earned as you play with Cozmo. Fortunately, Anki isn’t taking the pay-to-play route as the in-game currency is free and can’t be purchased through real-life currency. Yes, you actually have to play with Cozmo to teach it new tricks.
A super smart toy robot
Breathing Pixar characters to life, Cozmo is the smartest, most emotive consumer robot I’ve seen. As he awakes from a snooze atop his wireless charger, Cozmo immediately feels different than other toy robots. He’s noticeably smarter and will recognize objects and faces within sight. Cozmo’s animated emotions are digitally conveyed through his pixelated blue face.
Thanks to his clever software and sensors, Cozmo dynamically reacts with his environment. My favorite part is smiling at Cozmo and cueing him to respond with a giggle and saying my name. He doesn’t speak English in verbatim but his rambles are on par with WALL-E.
In addition, Cozmo scans every which way for those power cubes, and if he senses any, he’ll interact with them. The bulldozer-looking robot can stack blocks with curious nuances or tip blocks over with a rebellious attitude. Though it’s fun when seeing if Cozmo will even do so as he sometimes wanders off exploring other parts of his environment. When placed on my work desk, Cozmo had fun clambering over magazines or peering over the edges of the desk. He has an underneath infrared sensor, but he has taken a stumble or two. I don’t worry, though, Cozmo’s tank treads and plastic hull are durable. Needless to say, I kept an eye on the rambunctious Cozmo to keep him out of trouble.
Overall, Cozmo is one of the most “aware” consumer robots I’ve played with. His adorable, inquisitive, and sometimes mischievous animations emanate personality, and he’s smart enough to not regurgitate the same expressions. Albeit, I’ve only hung out with Cozmo for a few days, his novelty hasn’t worn off. Compared to Star Wars’ BB-8, I can’t say the same.
More than just a toy
Come fall, Anki will release the Cozmo SDK (software development kit). Anyone familiar with basic programming will be able to teach Cozmo new tricks with custom code. I haven’t tried the SDK yet, but it’s slated to offer all of Cozmo’s core features: computer vision, motor control, and emotional responses. It’ll be free for download and based on Python.
No robot is without hiccups, and Cozmo is no exception.
The initial setup is a bit tedious; you have to pair your smartphone to Cozmo’s Wi-Fi network using a unique password. I had to enter the password a few times over with a few unexpected connection problems in between. After that, Cozmo must be docked to his wireless charger for roughly two minutes.
To wake Cozmo, you’ll have to reconnect to the Wi-Fi network every time. Entering the password a second time isn’t required, but Cozmo must be in his wireless charger to power on. The little robot doesn’t have the old-fashiony on/off switch.
Lastly, Cozmo’s edge detection isn’t perfection. I’ve saved Cozmo from numerous falls; either he’s backing up or carrying a power cube too close to the edge. He’s robust, but I don’t want to see him break from a tumble.
If you pre-ordered Cozmo, you can expect him to arrive at your doorstep today. Cozmo makes its official launch on October 16th where he retails for $180 on Amazon and Anki.com. It’s a pricey tech toy, but definitely worth it if you’re into semi-sentient and adorable robots. For now, Cozmo is my bestest robot friend, and I don’t see any other robot taking his place in the near-future.
For dozens of more robot toys like Cozmo, check out our web app simplebotics.io.
Is this robot alive?!
Cozmo is astonishingly smart, playful, and emotive. Its novelty doesn't wear off in five minutes. With a durable, high-quality design, the robot is kid-proof. Unfortunately, it's tedious to power on and requires constant app connection. Edge detection doesn't always work, and it's a bit pricey for a small toy.