Crossed up! Anki Drive unveils new cars and first new tracks

The game featuring artificially intelligent cars is expanding, meaning players can buy all-new racing tracks, as well as two new cars. There's also a free software update opening up a set of new racing tools.

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Crossroads, the first new Anki Drive track, features an intersection drivers must navigate. Anki

Anki Drive owners owners just got a reason to play the racing game featuring AI cars for many more hours.

Today, the San Francisco based startup announced its first new tracks, as well as two cars with all-new capabilities, and a free software update available to all Anki owners that adds a racing mode, a new UI, and a turbo boost feature.

Anki, which launched last October, was first introduced in June, 2013 in the enviable and very rare position of an on-stage demonstration at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote.

The company, which has raised $50 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, and Two Sigma, is competing for its share of the $22.1 billion total toy market, and more specifically, the $1.51 billion toy vehicles market.

The company's $200 starter set, which comes with a basic 3.5 foot by 8.5 foot roll-up racing track and two cars. Anki had previously introduced two additional cars, each of which sell for $70.

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Bottleneck, the second new track, has the first narrow passageway on an Anki track. Anki

The first of the new tracks, both of which will be available May 6 and cost $100, are the same size as the original, is known as Crossroads. For the first time, this offers Anki players a track with an intersection, meaning that players will have to learn how to navigate their cars through the crossing while avoiding others cars, yet without losing position against opponents. But, said Anki president and co-founder Hanns Tappeiner, cars will collide, and success will come from learning how to navigate the new challenge.

The second new track is called Bottleneck, and features a narrow section that will force players to learn how to drive carefully at high speeds. Tappeiner said that Crossroads will add "fun chaos" to Anki Drive, while Bottleneck will force players to be more strategic.

The two new cars, which will retail for $70 each and are available today, are known as Corax and Hadion. Corax is a car built for battle, and will be the first Anki car capable of mounting two weapons. Hadion is meant for racing speed, and will be the first and only Anki car capable of using the new turbo boost tool.

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Hadion and Corax, the two new Anki Drive cars. Anki

In Anki Drive, players can race against cars controlled both by other people and the game's artificial intelligence system. During a demonstration at Anki's headquarters, Sofman showed how the AI-controlled cars interacted in real time with those being run by actual people. Indeed, the response time of the AI-controlled cars, whether it was to attack a slower car, or to evade an attack itself, was instantaneous. That's thanks to built-in components that check their driving logic 500 times a second, and convey positioning information to the car's wheels every 2 milliseconds.

Like the original, the new tracks are covered in special ink and optics that allow the cars, known as "characters," to constantly check where they are. And that, in turn, helps the cars -- regardless of whether they're being driven by a person or by the system's AI -- stay stable, even as they race around the oval at high speeds.

 

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