back to article Man+iPhone versus artificial intelligence: Anki robot racer slot cars

Anki, the racing toy maker clipped together by a band of robotics boffins, will begin selling its iDevice-controlled slot car set Anki Drive in just over five days’ time. It has apparently taken them six years to create this 21st Century version of that old favourite, Scalextric. AnkiDrive In pole position for release on 23 …


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  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Looks like good fun.... wonder if people will create DIY equivalents using Arduino boards. It'd be good if the racing mat had a different texture on both sides- a grippy side simulating tarmac, and slippery side for drifting 'rally' fun.

  2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Want one. Or a few. That's all.

  3. TheDillinquent

    I want one

    When can we get an Android controlled version?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I want one

      Only some of the more recent Android handsets support Bluetooth LE, so give it time. It's much the same reason that smart-watches from Casio and Citizen only support iOS at the moment.

      If the intention is to leave children alone with this, it is better they use a cheap 'n cheerful Android tablet rather than a pricey iPad.

      1. Richard 120

        Re: I want one

        Why on earth would you let children near this?

        Sticky little things that they are.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: I want one

          Richard 120, you have taken me back to a Christmas Day in my childhood, when I couldn't get close to my new Lego Technic set because my dad was playing with it.

          1. Code Monkey

            Re: I want one

            Dave126 in turn, you have taken me back to the last time I bought my nephew Lego for Christmas.

        2. Ted Treen

          Re: I want one @Richard 120

          Children should either be down the mines, or up chimneys - in between morning and evening paper-rounds, that is.

          Therefore they'll be far too tired to be interested.


          1. Richard 120

            Re: I want one @Richard 120

            My kids are great, wonderful things they are, without them I couldn't justify the amount of money I've spent on star wars lego, or video games.

            Kids are the perfect excuse for buying these things, but honestly do you actually want them to get their sticky hands all over the stuff?

            Just give them the box and tell them to use their imagination.

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: I want one @Richard 120

              "Just give them the box and tell them to use their imagination.!"

              ROFL. Have an upvote.

          2. Richard Taylor 2

            Re: I want one @Ted Treen

            At any rate they need to be earning in order to keep you in accessories and upgrades.....

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: I want one @Ted Treen

              >Just give them the box and tell them to use their imagination.

              I was brought up in public houses* before Gameboys or iPhones were used to distract nippers**, and my imagination told me that the piece of card inside fag*** packets resembled the shuttle from Star trek.




              1. Intractable Potsherd

                Re: I want one @Ted Treen @ Dave126

                " ... the piece of card inside fag*** packets resembled the shuttle from Star trek."

                It did - it wasn't your imagination. Had endless hours of fun(?) playing with fag packets at various relatives' houses.

                Why was it okay to play with fag packets and not sit quietly reading sci-fi?

  4. Ragarath

    6 Years? WTH?

    Okay, so they have been creating this for 6 years and utterly failed to create an android version that would net them a lot more sales.

    What were they thinking?

    They look interesting but I could find no details on how the cars are actually controlled. Do they drive themselves and you just decide when to fire? Pausing the video on their website at 0:38 reveals the app with what looks like a speed slider, your energy levels and buttons to press to use your abilities.

    Does this mean you just watch it drive round and when (hopefully) it manoeuvres into the right place you press the required button? If so this is worse than a video game where you would actually have control.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: 6 Years? WTH?

      If one of the requirements is an update to BT


      there aren't that many Android devices around at the moment that support it


      you might be forgetting that Black Friday and the Holiday Season is just around the corner then going with the most widely available phone is pure commercial sense.

      For toy manufacturers, the next 8-9 weeks is the most import time of the year. Put yourself in the position of the CEO of this company...

      Do you go with IOS and get the product on the shelves OR do you miss a year and hope and Android device makers have caught up in time for next year AND also hope that your company has enough money to survive the year with little or no revenue...

      IMHO, the answer is a no brainer. Go with IOS. Revenue/cash flow is king.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: 6 Years? WTH?

      The cars drive themselves around the track, but the player controls the speed of the cars and where on the track they go (e.g take opponent on the inside, or just race down the middle) in addition to when to use weapons to slow rivals down. Do bear in mind that this is only one of many possible game-types, and that modes such as 'capture the flag' can be implemented in future via software updates, or possibly developed by the players themselves.

      More details here:

      There are lots of software developers and hardware vendors who only target iOS devices, so Anki are hardly unusual in this respect. There is zero point generating more interest than you can currently supply, so you might as well develop for one platform first and then move on to a second or third. The choice of going with iOS might be influenced by the low latency of the platform, and Apple's inclusion of Bluetooth Low Energy - the latter of which only some newer Android devices support.

  5. Alastair Dodd 1

    If you can't create

    your own tracks is is not scalectrix and so is basically expensive arse.

    1. SuccessCase

      Re: If you can't create

      The cars are independent robotic cars which have sensors to detect the edge of the track. If the sensors are purely optical you will be able to create your own track. Though it is possible/probably the red track "edge" band needs to be to a precise specification and tone of red.

      1. David 77

        Re: If you can't create

        My understanding is that the cars can localise themselves within the track, not just bounce off the walls. Presumably using a hidden dot pattern on the track similar to the paper dot patterns used by things like the LiveScribe (

  6. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Made the worst mistake ever

    I want one and because I have a Blackberry Q10 I have doomed myself to not being ever able to get one :(

  7. Bob Dunlop

    Why bother with a little plastic car when you can have an Android controlled RoboRoach ?

    I'm sure you could race two or more of these.

  8. Homer 1

    Anki Panki

    Why oh why oh etc. do companies insist on tying their products exclusively to one vendor, especially one with a tiny minority market share like Apple, whilst ignoring the largest demographic?

    That's politics, not business. Call me old fashioned, but I always, perhaps naively, assumed that the whole point of a business was to make as much money as possible, not to piss it away on puerile fanboyism.

    Whatever. Wake me up if Anki ever stops its Anki Panki with Apple.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Anki Panki

      There are some fair reasons why lots of hardware and software vendors go with iOS. If you take take a step back from your 'politics' conclusion, you'll have a better chance of understanding the business reasons behind this decision.

      Device consistency, Bluetooth LE support, low system latency, limited supply capabilities and market research all play a part.

      1. Homer 1

        Re: Anki Panki

        Right, because only Apple's iThings could possibly run RC apps, right?

        Oh wait...

        Somebody call Cook, because apparently the Church of Apple's scriptures need a revision.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Anki Panki

          >Right, because only Apple's iThings could possibly run RC apps, right?

          Homer, I didn't say that Android can't do RC, merely that it is plausible for a company to target one platform before another for sound business reasons. Please don't give us the impression that your English comprehension is in need of a pit-stop, because you're probably better than that.

  9. Neill Mitchell

    Hang on...

    So each kid has to be the owner of an iPhone or Touch? So minimum entry requirement here is around £170 per participant. That's one expensive and fragile controller!

    Can't see that many 10 year olds getting one of these from Santa then. Older "kids" will be the ones hogging these ;)

    1. BeerTokens

      Re: Hang on...



      As expensive as a scalextric digital?

      Probably around the same money

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Hang on...

        try something closer in spec

        three cars, 4.5 m long track, pit stop challenge element, - £200.

        The platinum is six cars, 8.5 metre track.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cars, for example, have weapons and kit to shove aside their competitors

    I'd pay good money for a non-virtual version of this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cars, for example, have weapons and kit to shove aside their competitors

      Move to Hackney then ;)

  11. andreas koch


    With the drawback that the cat can swipe the cars off the track, your older brother, oops, stepping on one, the track foil not laying flat enough after the first rushed tidy-up, and so on.

    While the idea sounds like a winner, I don't think that any of these will survive new year's eve. About 25% can easily be scheduled for being returned after the holidays, because grandma bought it for the kiddies, without knowing that their iPhone is not compatible (or an actual Apple iPhone at all).

    There's also the thing with the charge: running out in the middle of a race (Waaahh, I was winning!! [9-year-old throws expensive iPhone at racemat, damaging both]) can be rather frustrating for a kiddie and puts them off quite quickly, see history of any chargeable toy.

    I can see more trouble than it'd be worth. Sure, it's a very clever christmas gift marketing idea, but I doubt that it'll be around in 2015, after ending in the bargain basket next year.

    A bit of a hit-and-run sell. (Nothing wrong with that from an economic point of view, but I wouldn't buy any shares. It ain't LEGO.)

  12. Stu

    If they could have instead...

    ...just made the cars into one of those line following type robots, albeit with a very wide line for the width of the track, and clever learning algorithms accumulating track knowledge lap after lap to learn 'racing lines', then us consumers could design any track instead of most likely having to pay out to the company for more track designs.


    Plus my inner child is criticising this for the cars being seemingly quite slow - they should've taken a leaf out of the scalextric trick of having to speed up and slow down around bends.

    1. t.est

      Re: If they could have instead...

      "...just made the cars into one of those line following type robots, albeit with a very wide line for the width of the track, and clever learning algorithms accumulating track knowledge lap after lap to learn 'racing lines', then us consumers could design any track instead of most likely having to pay out to the company for more track designs."

      I both agree and cannot agree. They should be smart enough for custom tracks, yes your right on that point.

      And I also love the idea of finding faster 'racing lines'. However racing is much more fun when you have competitors competing for that same "racing line". This means you have to choose wisely when to astray from the most efficient line, just to be able to overtake another though it means you have to go slower in the next corner.

      And this they have nailed with this setup, smart cars using their AI to block you from success. And you have to be smarter.

      Problem is the cars are probably to good at it, and a human racer would have no chance at equal terms. Actually it's not equal, your in a RC environment while the cars are on the track. It's never the same to do rc stuff as doing the real thing, you lack all the precision needed.

      But I guess the correct gaming mode and this will be fun, in single player mode, there probably will be a mode where every car competes against every car (not only cooperates to stop you), where the players car is 10% faster than the robot cars.

      Check Apple's Keynote with Tim Cook for the first presentation of this. It wasn't glitch free back then I assume they have worked on some bugs since then.

      To all those complaining about 6 years dev time. It's not the radiocontrol part that took 6 years to develop. It was the track, it was the AI for each car, and the communication between them. You don't make an AI smart very fast, it's years of work. Just look at Apples Siri, and IBM's Watson. Lots and lots of work, and research that has gone into it. AI are not a mainstream product that you just go an buy of the shelf.

      All those complaining about Android version, don't worry it will come in due time. Maybe when the touchmarks comes down to under 100 ms and they have the proper communication hardware in most Android devices. Who knows, maybe in a year already, there will be an app for it. Their concern now is to have the whole thing working, in their situation it would be suicide to concentrate on Android fragmented market.

  13. Johnny Canuck

    I remember, when I was a younger man, dating the mother of a 10 year old boy. I remember him screaming in frustration and throwing the Nintendo controller into the TV screen over some game he was having trouble with. I can picture iphones flying over this.

  14. naw

    Mmm - Simply too good for kids ;-)

    - yes, I want one...

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