Can emotional AI make Anki’s new robot into a lovable companion?

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Known for its hyperactive toys, the company spent years developing technologies to tackle its greatest challenge yet–subtlety.

If there’s a robot uprising anytime soon, it seems unlikely to start in our living rooms. Robotic vacuums like Roomba sell well because they are so handy. But other types of home robots–pets and companions from Sony’s Aibo robo-pooch to the recently shuttered Kuri (backed by Bosch)–have flopped due to both prices and expectations that have been set unreasonably high.

If any company can eventually bring us a domestic robot like Rosie from The Jetsons, Anki is a good bet. Started by three Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates in 2010, the company has racked up over $200 million in venture funding. More important, it’s attracted customers. Anki has already sold 1.5 million robots by taking what it sees as the easiest route into the home: toys. The star is a manic little bulldozer-looking bot called Cozmo that drives around a tabletop and plays simple games with light-up cubes it carries about. Cozmo was the best-selling toy (by revenue) on Amazon in the U.S., U.K., and France in 2017, according to one analysis.

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