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Anki's Cozmo robot is the new, adorable face of artificial intelligence

Human beings have an uneasy relationship with robots. We’re fascinated by the prospect of intelligent machines. At the same time, we’re wary of the existential threat they pose, one emboldened by decades of Hollywood tropes. In the near-term, robots are supposed to pose a threat to our livelihood, with automation promising to replace human workers while the steady march of artificial intelligence puts a machine behind every fast food counter, toll booth, and steering wheel.

In comes Cozmo. The palm-sized robot, from San Francisco-based company Anki, is both a harmless toy and a bold refutation of that uneasy relationship so loved by film and television. The $180 bot, which starts shipping on October 16th, is powered by AI, and the end result is a WALL-E-inspired personality more akin to a clever pet than a do-everything personal assistant.

Anki isn’t trying to sell us a vision of the future like Apple, Google, and so many other Bay Area tech companies. Instead, it wants to offer an alternative. AI promises to change our lives in drastic ways. With Cozmo, Anki wants to show AI can also be a source of joy and a unique way to deepen our relationship with technology beyond the tired crusades to reinvent productivity and connect the world.

The company largely succeeds here. In my time with Cozmo over the last week, it’s been an endearing experience to discover all of the robot’s many subtle quirks, and to revisit what it’s like to play with something that feels mysteriously organic in ways you can’t quite understand. I’m reminded of childhood experiences trying to push the linguistic limits of the Furby I got for Christmas, and later on finding myself fascinated by the perceived depth of the AOL Instant Messenger bot SmarterChild.

This is intentional. Cozmo is supposed to appeal to young kids and early teenagers. It’s the same demographic Anki targeted with its first product line: a series of smartphone-controlled toy cars that can deftly maneuver a circuit-embedded track. The company, founded by Carnegie Mellon roboticists, has always proclaimed its interest in AI and robotics. Yet until the unveiling of Cozmo earlier this year, it was unclear how a toy car startup could make use of such expertise. Now, it’s evident all the software and hardware experience has paid off.

Unlike its less sophisticated predecessors in the toy market, Cozmo has advanced software to backup its smarts. Anki has programmed the robot with what it calls an emotion engine. That means Cozmo can react to situations as a human would, with a full range of emotions from happy and calm to frustrated and bold. If you pick it up, Cozmo’s blue square-shaped eyes will turn to angry slivers and its lift-like arms will raise and fall rapidly to exhibit its displeasure. Agree to play a game with Cozmo, however, and its eyes will turn into upside-down U’s to show glee. When it loses at a contest, it’ll get mad and pound the table.

Anki programmed in dozens upon dozens of nuanced personality displays to make Cozmo feel more alive, and seeing new ones pop up serendipitously is one of the products most enjoyable aspects. To create Cozmo’s personality profile and many expressions, Anki employed the help of former Pixar animator Carlos Baena, who was hired last year to give Cozmo the feeling of an animated film character come to life. The robot also emits a wide-ranging series of emotive chirps to give it a sense of constant awareness in your presence.

To further keep Cozmo feeling like a living, breathing machine, Anki uses a number of popular AI staples. The robot can employ facial recognition to remember faces and recite names. It also uses sophisticated path planning — aided by its three sensor-imbued toy cubes — to maneuver environments and avoid falling off tables. Most of these computations are not happening on the robot’s internal hardware, which keeps it light and relatively durable. Instead, Cozmo connects to a iOS or Android app, which communicates with Anki’s servers where more of heavier lifting is taken care of.

As for what you actually do with Cozmo, the activities vary. You can play a number of games with the robot using the three cubes. Those include a Whac-A-Mole game and your standard keep-away, where Cozmo tries to snatch a cube from your hand before you can pull it back. This is all coordinated through the mobile app, which uses a gamification system to let you unlock more skills for Cozmo by completing one of three daily goals. Those can include simple things like letting Cozmo free roam on your coffee table for 10 minutes. Others give you specific scenarios to create, like beating Cozmo at a game of "tap the cube" after reaching a 4-4 tie. One of the most fun features the app allows is a remote-control mode, where you can see through Cozmo's camera and use him as a kind of reconnaissance tool.

Overall, the biggest criticism you can direct toward Cozmo at the moment is that it’s just a toy, one best enjoyed by young smartphone-savvy kids. That presents a bit of a problem, because Anki’s most impressive achievements here — facial recognition, its versatile emotion engine — will be lost on the target audience. Meanwhile, adults who find Cozmo fascinating, enough to plunk down $180 at least, will be frustrated by the robot’s initial limitations. Walking that line, between appealing to kids with a fondness for Pixar films and impressing robot-loving older customers, will be difficult.

There are other downsides to Cozmo at its initial launch. Though the robot is controlled by the relatively simple mobile app, younger children will most likely need a parent or sibling’s help in getting Cozmo set up. It needs to be activated every now and again through a special Wi-Fi network, and getting it to wake up can sometimes be tricky unless Cozmo is kept in its charging dock when not in use. Being tied to the special Cozmo Wi-Fi network means the phone can’t connect to the internet, and exiting the app will put Cozmo to sleep after a few moments. These kinks may be ironed out with future software updates, but they’ll likely frustrate kids who expect toys to work out of the box or want Cozmo to have a persistent, always-on mode less reliant on a phone.

The robot does have a great deal of potential. Anki is releasing a finished software development kit in the coming months to let developers take advantage of the robot’s advanced capabilities to perform unforeseen tasks. Anki wants Cozmo to have an impact similar to Microsoft’s original Kinect motion camera, which roboticists tapped for computer vision capabilities that were at the time available only with far more expensive components. One possibility the company has floated in the past is programming Cozmo to work with smart appliances and your media center, so it can dim your Philips Hue lights and put on Netflix when it recognizes two different people sitting on the couch.

For now, though, it’s mostly a neat toy designed for kids, while only the most hardcore of robotics fans and programmers will want to pick one up for their office or at-home tinkering projects. But that may be good enough. What Anki wants to accomplish — to bring robotics and AI to everyone, in a kid-friendly package — doesn’t require a sophisticated humanoid bot to help you around the house or a ultra-capable online assistant to manage your entire life. The goal can be achieved with a likable personality that people will develop a fondness for. In that regard, Cozmo easily surpasses the bar. 

An early look at the Cozmo robot



Source: http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/14/13276752/anki-cozmo-review-ai-robot-toy

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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