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SPECIAL RI/National Robotics Week TALK: Boris Sofman
Consumer Robotics: Story and Lessons

Boris Sofman
Co-Founder & CEO, ANKI

April 10, 2014, 2:00 - 3:30 pm, Rashid Auditorium, 4401 Gates and Hillman Centers

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Abstract

Anki is a robotics and artificial intelligence company founded by 3 RI PhD students with the goal of bringing these technologies into mass-market consumer products (we now have 11 RI graduates at Anki). Anki's first product, Anki DRIVE, is the first game to combine the speed and excitement of scale model car racing with the gameplay, weapons, and characters of video games. Launched in October 2013 in partnership with Apple, each car in DRIVE understands it's position, can move incredibly precisely, and can think and drive for themselves with unique skills and personalities if not driven by humans. This creates an unprecedented level of interaction and intelligence in physical characters in a mass-market consumer product. In this talk I'll share a bit of the Anki story and some of the lessons learned in our journey: developing a consumer product from prototype to mass production (and how this deviates from PhD style research), aggressively balancing price and functionality, quickly reacting to new technologies and trends, fund-raising, growing a diverse team, and working with retail / marketing / PR.


Speaker Biography

As an engineer and researcher with experience in building diverse robotic systems — from consumer products to off-road autonomous vehicles and bomb-disposal robots — Boris is making it his life’s work to create products that people would not expect to be possible. He earned a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Boris is an avid tennis player, but finds that Anki doesn’t allow him to play nearly as often as he’d like.
Speciality: Perception & Planning for Autonomous Vehicle Navigation