Yesterday, an artificial intelligence startup, Anki, demoed at Apple’s WWDC conference. Even though the demo was a little buggy, it wowed the crowd. Tim Cook praised it as “the first steps of the future of robots and artificial intelligence being realised.”
Anki has found another fan in Netscape founder and Andreessen Horowitz partner, Marc Andreessen*. His team contributed to a $50 million Series A and B investment in Anki, along with Index Ventures and Two Sigma, to help build robots that know exactly where they’re located and move accordingly.
During the WWDC demo, co-founder Boris Sofman laid down a small race track and put toy cars on it. At once, they started winding around the curves of the track perfectly without any human aid. It was all controlled by an iPhone app, which enables the cars to react to their surroundings in real time via low-energy BlueTooth signals. The cars ping the app 500 times per second, according to Sofman. The other two cars were able to prevent a third car from passing. Sofman says the cars are programmed to think the way a human does while driving.
The founders of Anki are just beginning with toy cars. Eventually, Anki intends to build more robust, location-aware robots. Andreessen likens the technology to Google’s self-driving car. But Anki is starting with an affordable solution that can scale to everyone’s living room.
“It’s extraordinarily sophisticated software and closer to the Google Self-Driving car than anything else,” he told TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis in an interview. “The way robotics and AI come into the market is the way computers come into the market, very expensive. These guys are doing the exact opposite, at the lowest cost possible. They’re going for quantity, they’re going for scale. Sort of like the smartphone versus the mainframe.”
Here’s how the founders, who met at Carnegie Mellon, came up with Anki in 2007 and where they plan to take the product.
And here’s part of the demo yesterday. For the full demo, start watching the Apple video at the 10:30 mark.
*Marc Andreessen is an individual investor in Business Insider.
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