Anki, the startup that made little A.I. robots, is closing down

Anki, a San Francisco-based startup known for robotic creations such as Vector, Cozmo, and AnkiDrive, is reportedly closing down.

CEO Boris Sofman told the company’s 200 or so employees at the start of this week that the business will shutter on Wednesday, May 1, Recode said.

Despite raising around $200 million in venture capital over its nine-year history, the company apparently has run out of funds after a potential deal collapsed late in the day.

In a statement to Recode, the company said it no longer had the funds to support “a hardware and software business, and bridge to our long-term product roadmap.”

It added: “Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms. A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available.”

Anki was founded in 2010 by roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University. It first caught our attention when Apple gave it the stage at its 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference where it showed off its A.I.-based, robot-car racing game, AnkiDrive, which used iOS devices as remote controls.

After that, it turned to home robots with the launch of Cozmo, a diminutive A.I.-powered device described by Anki as “a real-life robot like you’ve only seen in movies, with a one-of-a-kind personality that evolves the more you hang out.” Cozmo’s abilities and skills also developed with frequent app updates, giving the robot new ways to learn and play.

More recently, it launched Vector, a more advanced autonomous effort that supports digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, which enabled Anki to target the $250 device at an older audience. Thanks to input from former Pixar and DreamWorks creators, Vector can perform around 1,000 different animations. It cal also recognize different people via its built-in camera, which also helps Vector to avoid objects as it moves around on its wheels.

Sofman said just last year that his company had a “vision for entertaining and purposeful robots in every home, everywhere,” but sadly, through Anki at least, things haven’t turned out as planned.

Anki is yet to offer any news on what its closure means for owners of Cozmo and Vector robots. We’ve reached out to its team and will update this article when we hear back.

This latest company collapse highlights the difficulties faced by developers of home robots, and comes just a few months after the Boston-based maker of Jibo — a social robot for the home — ended support for its cute creation.

If you still have faith in buddy robots and would like one for your home, then check out these cute creations spotted at the CES tech show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

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