The Anki DRIVE is one of those toys you probably would have begged your parents for when you were a kid. It combines the customization of a video game, the hands-on feel of remote-control racing, and the excitement of a robotics battle.
Watching the toy cars interact without user input is quite fascinating, as the computer-controlled AI makes split-second competitive decisions.
Each of the cars used in the Anki DRIVE is a "character," with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. It's a great touch that should help the company market the toy to children. Up to four cars are able to play at once.
The track the cars run on might appear completely opaque at first, but it's actually transparent to infrared light. The cars are able to see the elaborate code that runs under the track material using a downward-facing sensor.
Using this system, the cars are able to pinpoint their exact location on the track. This information is then transmitted from the car to the Anki app on a connected iOS device, where a user can send commands back to the vehicle—slow down, speed up, veer left or right, and so on.
The cars carry special sensors that feed data to a connected iOS device, which gives players a control over their car’s speed and special skills. The game component itself shares some similarities with other racing games, with a sophisticated arsenal of weapons and an upgradable skill tree.
Currently, compatible iOS devices that can be used with the Anki DRIVE include:
• iPhone 4s and newer
• iPod Touch 5th generation
• iPad 3rd generation and newer
• iPad mini
Support for Android and Windows Phone devices isn't yet available, and the company wasn't forthcoming on future plans.
Hands On with the Anki DRIVE
We got to spend some time test-driving the Anki DRIVE, and it was fascinating to see the effects of each weapon in a physical, tangible environment. For example, using your shield skill allows you to block incoming enemy fire. Shooting at another vehicle causes their iOS device to flash and vibrate, depleting their car's energy.
The cars are extremely responsive to user input, immediately speeding up, slowing down or executing a skill in response to executing commands in the Anki app. Here are a few of the current skills usable in the game:
• Reverse Drive: Forces your car to do a complete 180, so you can get behind an opponent or face them head-on
• Kinetic Brake: Brings your car to a complete stop
• EMP Bomb: Damages all opponents near your vehicle
• Horn: Forces other drivers out of your way (and also includes a cool sound effect)
The real beauty of Anki DRIVE is the underlying software, which makes the single-player experience surprisingly immersive. The computer-controlled AI are remarkably lifelike, making on-the-fly calculations to respond to user input and behaviors. Even cooler, the AI will adapt to your play style over time, creating additional challenges for seasoned players.
Actually, the algorithms used to control the Anki cars are very similar to the algorithms that Google uses to control its driverless cars.
Because Anki DRIVE is software-based, it can be upgraded on an ongoing basis by the developers, potentially providing new gameplay experiences over time.
With a $199.95 price tag for the starter kit, and two additional cars available for $69.95 each, the Anki DRIVE isn't a impulse buy. Still, it offers a unique gaming experience that just might capture more attention from the media and consumers in the coming months.