Cozmo’s 1.6 million lines of
code are written in a variety of
programming languages, including
C and C++.
NOT EXACTLY A MARS
Tappeiner is familiar with
comparisons made between
Cozmo and a Mars rover, but he’s
not sure the comparison is apt.
“When you talk about a Mars
rover, you’re talking about
something that is remote-
controlled,” he says. “We thought
it was most important that it be
When he’s connected to the Cozmo app on a smart device,
the bot can explore on his own, and this offers him the chance to
learn more about his surroundings – information he retains.
The gears that drive Cozmo on his tread-like wheels posed a
design challenge. Electrical engineers had to fit tiny pieces into a
small form factor, a task that proved difficult. In fact, several earlier
versions of Cozmo were much larger because of the parts that
make the robot move. The bulky size, however, posed a danger
to users. Cozmo uses his lift in one activity to press on fingers. A
heavier, larger robot could hurt someone.
With so many moving parts, Tappeiner tells me the potential for
things to go wrong was always a consideration.
We talk about the prototyping process. I mention an electrical
engineer once told me it’s easy to make one prototype that works
well, but design flaws sometimes don’t show up until you’ve made
hundreds of them.
He agrees, and tells me the company hired a team experienced
with mass manufacturing. Each Cozmo goes through rigorous
testing that involves an obstacle course. It must successfully
complete the course over and over again before it is ready to be
shipped to a customer.
There’s no arguing that the coding involved in Cozmo’s
creation and upkeep is complex – even for people with
advanced degrees in computer science and engineering.
But what if that coding was available in a simple software
development kit? Well, wonder no more.
ANKI recently made available the Cozmo SDK, which allows
users to program their Cozmo to do cool and interesting things.
For example, you could tap into Cozmo’s face-recognition and
path planning to customize actions. You could also connect with a
third-party application programming interface – like Twitter – and
tweet at Cozmo to turn your lights off.
The SDK allows for customization without having years of
programming experience. The kit runs on Python, a relatively
basic and easy programming language.
The SDK is one way ANKI is trying to keep people from
growing bored with the robot. If they can customize his actions,
it adds another layer of entertainment to the equation.
Cozmo is also constantly being updated – for the same reason.
He’d gone through at least three updates as of our interview in
early 2017. New features are constantly being added, Andrew
Cha, communications manager with ANKI tells me. New games,
behaviors, and capabilities are typically part of the average
update. Cozmo is even being updated to recognize pets.
“In our first update, we added a fist bump,” he says.
Given the number of versions, updates, and planned
improvements, Cozmo is one robot kids – and kids-at-heart –
will probably never tire of.