Anki Drive, which launched in 2013, created a new type of toy that combined robot cars with a smartphone app to battle your peers around a track. The product was quite successful, becoming the second best-selling toy on Amazon this past Christmas.
But that wasn’t enough for the San Francisco-based startup. Today the company introduced Anki Overdrive, the second-generation product that debuts new cars, a new app, new gameplay features and a new modular track system that lets users create custom racetracks.
And perhaps most importantly, iOS and Android users can now for the first time battle each other with Anki Overdrive. When Anki Drive launched, it was only available to iOS users, with Android support coming later. However, you could only play against users on the same platform.
Photos: Eyes on Anki Overdrive
The new modular track system allows you to clip together track pieces by connecting magnets. The Anki Overdrive kit, which will be sold starting in September 2015 for $150, comes with 10 track pieces – six curves and four straights – that allow you to create eight tracks, all of which will work with older Anki Drive cars once those cars get a software update. You can buy track accessories separately to build up to 20 tracks.
Hann Tappeiner, co-founder and President of Anki, told Engadget that Anki always wanted a modular track system, it just couldn’t figure out how to best do it. Engadget explains:
The solution, they soon discovered, was to go back to the modular track idea, but have it so that it’s easy to build up and break down. They ended up going with a magnetic connector system, where the tracks attach to each other in the same way the MagSafe charger does with Apple’s laptops. Another key aspect of these tracks is that they’re made out of a flexible material so that you can bend and position them to make hills or valleys. “We want people to use anything they have at home [to place them] … boxes, shoes, the coffee table, or anything you like.” This way, you could build three-dimensional tracks where the cars could climb hills or go in tunnels or even jump off a special jump track.
In order to have this new modular track work, Anki had to reconfigure the car’s software. In the past, because they only had three fixed mats, the ink embedded in the mat’s location codes would tell the car where exactly it is and it would know what to do. With the modular track system, the cars now have to figure out where they are and where to go in real-time because they have no idea what the track looks like. Anki had to embed an additional layer of “super code” in the track that tells the car to act immediately. So, for example, a curved track would immediately cause it to turn while it would drive on as normal on a straight track. But, Tappeiner tells us that the phone can suppress this if the player wants it to, especially if it’s to obtain a certain game objective. Some of the optional tracks include the aforementioned jump track, a four-way intersection and a “U-Turn” track that forces cars to do a 180 and turn around.
The new Overdrive cars are also backwards-compatible with the old rollable mats. Anki is also introducing a campaign mode to play solo against AI “Commanders” in a tournament setup. And there will be more game modes to come.
Anki Overdrive will also introduce two cars, Thermo and Nuke, and a host of expansion kits that include (via Wired):
Jump Kit: take off and landing pieces
180 Kit: automatically turns cars around and sends them the other direction
Collision Kit: adds some circuit complexity but also the possibility of different routes as the Anki cars can be instructed to take the left or right path
Speed Kit: maxes your speed to try and outrun opponents
Corner Kit: helps you take turns at top speed
Rails Kit: helps you slingshot into straightaways or drive the fight into corners
Elevation Kit: open up track possibilities with hills, bridges, underpasses and more
Bank Turn Kit: gives you corners at faster speeds