Self-driving cars on highways are still in their early days, but the miniature version is available right now at a toy store near you.
Robotics startup Anki this week begins selling the newest iteration of its artificial intelligence-enabled toy race cars that can navigate a track without human input.
Called Anki Overdrive, the new kit lets players build their own courses using special track pieces can be connected via magnets. While last year’s Anki course was a flat oval, players can now build loops, jumps and other obstacles into their tracks. Before a race begins, the toy cars take a few preliminary laps around the course, using an onboard infrared camera to scan the path of the track.
Once a race is underway, Anki cars’ AI smarts generally keep the vehicles on the course, while a human player can augment their speed and lane positioning via a smartphone app. Players can also fire digital weapons like lasers and bombs at opponents via the app, Mario Kart-style. Anki has also built a campaign mode complete with a lineup of sci-fi opponents who have custom stats and attacks. The entire experience is a bit like Hot Wheels meets F-Zero.
Anki is one of many companies spearheading the fast-growing “toys to life” sector, which merges video games with real-world toys. Companies like Activision and Nintendo have already struck gold with the Skylanders franchise and the Amiibo figurines.
The new Anki Overdrive retails for $150 and comes with two cars and 10 track pieces. Players can buy extra tracks in packs costing between $10 and $30, as well as additional cars that cost $50.