If you watched the 2013 WWDC, you might remember Anki Drive (Free), the short demonstration of AI-guided cars racing around an oval track without bumping into each other or skidding out. According to Anki, the developers of the game, the cars weren’t using the iPhone as a remote control but, rather, as the brains behind an “immersive, real world experience." The players controlled the cars’ speed and weaponry and let the AI ensure that the car stayed within the track boundaries. Last year, Anki released the first version of its product on Amazon, and according to the VentureBeat article, it became one of the best-selling toys on Amazon in 2014 (Anki Drive has mostly 4.5 star reviews currently). Recently, Anki has announced that it’s launching a major upgrade, Anki Overdrive, on September 20th, and the company hopes that this upgrade will further convince consumers that its product can deliver high-end experience to people who want to play with more than just toy cars.
The original Anki Drive came with an oval race track, but Anki Overdrive pushes the technology further by delivering a modular race track that should make setting the game up in your living room much easier. Also, the upgraded version includes Enemy A.I. commanders and their crews, which drive the new robotic supercars, and you’ll have to battle them in a long campaign. The technology behind the track is crazy (special ink and optics technology) while the cars each have a camera and a 50 Mhz computer. The game also comes with modes like Time Trial, King of the Hill, and so on. And, in what’s good news for most players, Anki Overdrive will offer cross-play between Android and iPhones for the first time, which definitely expands the possibilities for friends to compete together. According to the developers, Overdrive‘s cars have been designed by Harald Belker, who has designed vehicles for Minority Report, Tron: Legacy, and the new Total Recall. Quite an impressive resume.
I belong to the category of people who enjoy seeing how developers can push the envelop of what we consider “gaming," which is why I’m intrigued by Anki Overdrive. Using an iPhone as a bridge between the player and the physical cars is an interesting way to use the technology, a bit like AR in the way the digital and physical blend together (although not as pronounced as an AR game, of course). Now, I’m not saying that this game might entertain everyone, but judging from the sales and reviews of the first Anki game, a market for this kind of technology definitely exists. Is this a kind of “toy" you would be interested in? Do such endevarors tickle your imagination of what’s to come, or do you see this as technology for technology’s sake? The base set, which includes ten pieces of track and two cars, will cost $150 on launch, and then you can buy additional pieces of track and cars to further enhance the experience.