Anki's AI-powered Cozmo now requires you to play with it regularly

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Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Anki’s Cozmo, the endearing toy robot with an AI-powered personality, got a big upgrade last week in the form of a new app. And basically, it makes him a little more needy.

“To many of his fans, Cozmo is the ultimate pet robot — you can play games with him, sure, but you can also just hang out with him,” Meghan McDowell, senior producer at Anki, wrote in a blog post. “The update transforms the relationship between Cozmo and his owner to one that is more evocative of the relationship that exists between a beloved pet and its owner.”

It’s a little like Tamagochi: When you update the Cozmo app via the Google Play Store on Android or App Store on iOS, you’ll see new progress meters divided into three categories (or “Needs”): Play, Feed, and Tune Up.

The Play meter fills up as you play games with Cozmo and encourage him interact with Power Cubes, the light-up blocks that ship in the box. “Feeding” Cozmo with the Power Cubes, which involves placing one in front of him as he rolls up to it and pretends to eat it, replenishes the Feed meter. And recalibrating Cozmo by tapping a series of arrows on the screen resets the Tune Up bar.

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The meters have a tangible effect on Comzo’s demeanor, McDowell said. As they deplete over time, the less likely Cozmo is to play games, perform tricks, and explore its surroundings. Conversely, the fuller Play, Feed, and Tune Up get, the more bubbly Cozmo acts around familiar faces.

“[Like] a pet, sometimes Cozmo has specific needs that require just a little love and care,” McDowell wrote. “By keeping him tuned-up, energized, and entertained, you develop his skills and abilities, making him a sharper playmate and partner in crime.”

Anki also announced expanded availability of the Cozmo Collector’s Edition. In North America, it launches in Toys R Us, Anki.com, and Best Buy Canada on Sept. 17, and goes on sale later this year in Japan, Germany, U.K., France, and Nordic retailers.

Cozmo’s “personality” update comes on the heels of Code Lab, a Scratch-like visual programming language that puts Cozmo’s motor movements, facial recognition, text-to-speech, and more at your fingertips.

“We’ve been working on Cozmo since 2011 and he still continues to evolve every day,” McDowell wrote. “The more time you spend with Cozmo, managing his needs and helping him explore his abilities, the more he’ll be able to do.”