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Published on December 8th, 2014 | by Greg

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Anki DRIVE: The Future Of Toy Racecars

We hope you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping just yet- because we’ve got plenty more great gear and gadgets left in our end-of-the-year wrap-up. We’ll have gift guide coverage next week, just in time for that last second seasonal sprint through the malls, online or in person. But in the meantime, we’ve got one toy that should be high on your lists, and one of the coolest concepts we’ve seen transform our living rooms.

Take Mario Kart, toy or slot racing cars, artificial intelligence, and smartphone apps, combine them with a dash of RPG-like mechanics allowing you to level up and customize your car, and throw in a lot of technological sophistication.. and you’ll have a basic understanding of Anki DRIVE. It’s a surprisingly ambitious design, ideal for anyone who has grown accustomed to seeing their children play with phones and has been looking for a way to play along with something more real. This newfangled racetrack gives everyone, adults and kids alike, a great way to interact with actual, physical toys that require some assembly and encourage experimentation. And for those spoiled by the weapons and shields and tricks that can only really exist in the realm of bits and bytes, there is plenty of fun to be found by bringing those elements to the real world as much as possible.

For toy cars, the box is impressively big. You’ll roll out a special mat, and every player will need an iOS or Android device- and you’ll all need to have the same type (cross-platform support is absent at the moment). The free app is your key to unlocking the real fun- the cars themselves are fine, and the controls are decent, but what sets apart the Anki is the Battle Mode. Up to four vehicles can play at once, though we only tried with the two included in the Starter Set (other tracks and cars are available separately). And if you have extra cars, you can have the AI control them- which is really nifty and can provide a decent challenge. The only major downsides we found are battery life (you can expect about three races between charges), and the size and limitations of the mat (you’ll need a fair bit of space to race).

You can add obstacles, but for the most part, will be confined to the given surfaces and track designs, which can fairly quickly get a bit boring as there isn’t a lot of variety to them. But the app itself encourage plenty of repeat experiences, as you can upgrade your cars as you gain experience. This, in turn, allows you to boost abilities, which you can use during races- like a tractor beam, which is as cool as it sounds (different cars have different abilities). As you might expect, your control is more limited than with R/C cars, and you cannot really drive off the map. But you can cause other cars to spin out, and there’s just enough strategy to satisfy regular players while newcomers won’t feel too bad. The learning curve is just right, and any kid is sure to show it off to friends. Note that you can’t use the cars on their own (off-track), which means the system isn’t very portable. But the Anki Drive Starter Set is, well, an excellent start, and reasonably priced for under the tree at $100 online and in stores.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Appleā€™s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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