No more smart robots.
Toymaker Anki is going out of business, it has been revealed. The news was delivered to Anki’s 200 staff today by CEO Boris Sofman. Those same 200 employees will be out of the job by Wednesday, and have only been given one week of severance.
Anki took the world of toys by a storm in 2013 with the racing toy Anki Overdrive, which connected to your smartphone and allowed users to program their cars to take certain routes; there was also a considerable AI element to the package, which is perhaps unsurprising when you consider that the company was founded by Carnegie Mellon roboticists. Anki Overdrive would later see a successful crossover with Hot Wheels, but it would be the firm’s next project that really put it on the map.
Cozmo launched in 2016 and was an AI-controlled robot which featured expressions designed by a Pixar artist. Like Anki Overdrive, the toy connected to your smartphone and could be programmed to play games and perform tasks, but the AI component — which gave Cozmo its own unique personality — was the key selling point.
Anki followed Cozmo with the more robust Vector last year; a robot which didn’t require a constant smartphone connection and was even clever enough to locate its charging dock without any instruction. Vector was aimed at an older audience than Cozmo, and commercials for the product positioned it as an AI assistant; Amazon Echo on wheels, almost.
Anki stated that it had sold 1.5 million robots to date in August of last year, but it would seem that its success was not significant enough to keep the firm afloat. The company had previously raised around $200 million in venture capital to date.
Speaking to Recode, a company spokesperson said: “Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms. A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available.”
Damien McFerran has been covering phones and mobile technology for well over a decade. An Android specialist, as well as an expert reviewer of phones, Damien is one of the best technology journalists working today. He is also editorial director over at the excellent Nintendo Life.