Cozmo was supposed to be the new face of robotics for Anki, previously known for its collection of connected toy cars. After Cozmo’s launch last October, the company offered SDKs for research groups to play with the robot’s facial and spacial recognition capabilities and path mapping, but this was mostly limited to adult developers who were familiar with programming in Python. To bring the focus back to Anki’s target market — kids — today the company is releasing a visual coding component for Cozmo so children can, too, program the robot.
Called Code Lab, the update will arrive over the air as a new mode within the Cozmo app. Kids can drag and drop functions on Code Lab to get Cozmo to do various things, such as move forward and backward, look for faces, and pick up blocks. The functions even let Cozmo look specifically for smiling or frowning faces, and comes with a ton of preprogrammed Cozmo reactions to these if conditions, such as a celebratory dance, a laugh, or an annoyed groan. The app offers different challenges to teach users the foundations of basic programming.
According to Anki, this is just step one of the company’s efforts to open Cozmo up as a coding toy for kids. Later this year, it plans to expand Code Lab to allow more complex actions, as it’s built off MIT’s Scratch programming language. Anki claims that anything you can program on Python you’ll be able to program through the updated Code Lab. And because Cozmo has complex abilities to recognize faces and remember names, and use its computer vision to see color, count items, and path map, casual learners and researchers can get more out of programming Cozmo than most other kids’ coding toys that can only dance around a bit.
Since its launch, Anki says the demographic of Cozmo owners were split about 50 / 50 between adults and children. More interestingly, within both the adult and kids categories, 50 percent of those groups were split evenly between male and female users. Earlier this month the company announced it would expand Cozmo sales to a number of new countries, with a new limited edition color that’ll ship later this year.