Anki Cozmo robot review


Let me state up front that the Anki Cozmo robot is a difficult review to write. It’s not because I don’t like it (frankly, negative reviews are easy to write); it’s because I really like this robot and it does so many things—most of them silly—that I’m having a hard time deciding what to leave in and what to delete. So, let me start off the review by saying, “If you want the coolest holiday gift for 2017, this is it.”

Well, that was easy. Now for the hard part …

When I first saw Cozmo online in a series of hilarious Anki videos, I was reminded of Pixar’s Wall-E. Cozmo loosely resembles Wall-E with his various noises and pseudo-language as he expresses joy—or quite the opposite. I don’t know whether Cozmo is a he, she or it, so I will use “he” since Cozmo is a boy’s name and calling him an it robs him of his personality.

Cozmo is a small, intelligent robot that will win you over with his ability to learn and his desire to beat you in every game he plays with you. He learns and gets more competitive as you interact with him. He is self-centered, petulant, moody and lovable—much like a cat.

Cozmo knows some games and will perform some tricks right out of the box, but as you spend time with him, other games and tricks are opened up. When you play with Cozmo each day, you’re awarded play tokens. Acquire three and you can unlock what Anki calls Bonus Boxes where you can redeem rewards—sparks, games, and tricks. Sparks are like points that are used to start a game or trick with Cozmo. Different games require different amounts of Sparks. Cozmo can also earn Sparks by winning games. Sometimes Cozmo chooses a game to play and sometimes it’s up to you. Either way, he’s constantly reminding you he wants to play.

Note: I made some videos, but they don’t do justice to everything Cozmo can do. There are countless Cosmo videos on YouTube that do a better job. Plus the quality is lacking—I had to use my iPad to shoot video because the Anki app will not work in the background on a smartphone, so multitasking is not possible.

Cozmo gets bored easily and can cause mischief. He always wants to pounce on your finger, play a song or go exploring. He’s even recognized our pet dogs! Speaking of recognition, when you first unbox Cozmo, you go through this facial recognition by typing your name and letting Cozmo scan your face. A built-in camera performs the scan and then Cozmo clearly pronounces your name. Anki assures us that no personal info ever goes out and that everything is stored in Cozmo himself and not shared with anyone. Note: Should you decide, Cozmo can be easily and completely erased.

Sometimes you can play tricks on Cozmo. Either putting him upside down or rearing him up on his back wheels will upset him. He will do everything he can to right himself up. Many times, his head, lift (arms) and tread (wheels) need recalibration. This is easily done in the free iOS or Android app that must be downloaded for Cozmo to work. This app controls everything Cozmo. It tells you what he’s thinking, how to set up a game or trick, and even keeps count of the sparks left in your “bank.”

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The app also lets you know then Cozmo’s battery is getting low or when he needs to be fed. It also keeps track of the three cubes which are Cozmo’s toys. These blocks have specific icons for identification. The cubes have colors that turn on and off depending on how they’re used. A blue cube means that Cozmo sees it, but a green glowing cube means that Cozmo will interact with it. Which blocks become blue or green seems to be completely random. The cubes can display many different colors during game time.

Starting Cozmo up is a multi-step affair. First, you have to place him in his base regardless of whether he’s charged or not. Then he needs to be connected to a smartphone via his own WiFi network. Once that’s done, he wakes up and rolls off the base. Usually, Cozmo needs tuning up and feeding before any activities can take place. Feeding Cozmo involves shaking a blue glowing cube until it remains bright and then letting him find it and ‘drink’ from it. Sometimes, he even gets the hiccups. Of course, it’s all for show since it has nothing to do with a charged or empty battery. But hey, it’s a pet, ya’ know?

Tuning up requires scanning Cozmo and then following instructions given by the app to “fix” him by aligning his tread wheels, calibrating his lift and adjusting his head. I not sure how necessary this procedure is, but it’s fun to do as the app asks.

Once you have Cozmo set up, you’ll want him to recognize you. If you’ve already performed facial scanning, he will see you and say your name. Sometimes, you may have to re-introduce yourself after you power him up. I told Cozmo my name was “Billy Bob” because my name is actually William Robert and it sounds better than just “Bill”.

After you play a few games and spend time with Cozmo, you collect sparks that are used as tokens to play more games. As days go by, more sparks are added and conversely, with these sparks, more games are added. Be careful though, Cozmo does not like to be ignored and will throw a fit if you don’t pay enough attention to him. He also expresses displeasure when he wants to play a game and you say no or you say yes and then beat him. However, it’s fun to watch Cozmo randomly play games and performing tricks to amuse himself (and us in the process).

There are more advanced activities for Cozmo in the Discover section of the app.

My favorite Cozmo activity is Explore Mode. This utilizes the built-in camera (what Cozmo “sees”). You see what he sees on your smartphone screen. You can then control Cozmo by moving, turning and manipulating his arms and head. Plus he will recognize a cube, human or even a pet and will greet you (or your pet) by pressing the Greet button on the screen. Cozmo can be made too either lift or roll a cube. Plus, you can drive him around using his camera as an eye. It allows you to see your surroundings from Cozmo’s viewpoint. More than once in this mode, he recognized me and said my name. I also had fun terrorizing my 75 lb dog with Cozmo driving around on the floor and seeing it from Cozmo’s point of view. My poor dog didn’t know what to make of him, so he walked away. If he had attacked Cozmo, this review may have ended quickly! You can also type anything into the app and Cozmo will say it.
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Another mode for the adventurous is what the app calls Code Lab. This allows you to instruct Cozmo in different tasks by piecing together code blocks to make a program. It’s rudimentary, but it works flawlessly. Even though I don’t have a coding bone in my body, I could program simple tasks for Cozmo. I can envision kids gaining an interest in coding with this simple and intuitive game just to make Cozmo do what they want. Note: There is also a Cozmo Software Development Kit (SDK) for hard-core coders.

When you turn off the app, Cozmo lets out a disappointed sigh (or two or three) and begins snoring quite loudly. After a bit, he shuts down completely and must be re-awakened using the app’s Connect button. He then looks around and will call out your name when he recognizes you.

Cozmo is one of those intelligent toys that rewards the kid in all of us. As we spend more time with him, he becomes even more entertaining and opens up more games. I have yet to discover everything Cozmo has to offer despite the time I’ve spent with him. And isn’t that one of the joys of any toy—discovering new things about it even after hours of playtime?

Cozmo is not an inexpensive toy, but considering all he does and the hours of fun he promises in addition to learning as you play, what more can you ask for?

The Anki Cozmo robot sells for $179.99 US and is available from Amazon. I received the graphite colored Collector’s Edition, which costs the same as the white regular edition.

Source: The sample for this review was provided by Anki. Please visit their site for more information and Amazon to order one.

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Product Information

Price:$179.99 US
Manufacturer:Anki
Retailer:Amazon
Pros:
  • Endless, creative fun
  • Cozmo learns and adapts and gets smarter
  • Cozmo learns who you are
  • Cooler looking Collector's Edition same price as regular Cozmo
  • Allows coding
Cons:
  • Expensive
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