Cozmo by Anki: meet Christmas 2017's hottest toy (already)

AI and robotics experts and Hollywood animators join forces to make game-playing, heart-warming, crate-stacking plastic pal who's fun to be with

Parents: want to know what you'll be fighting other mums and dads in Toys R Us over, or forlornly stalking eBay in the vain hope of finding one at double its RRP, come Christmas time?

Meet Cozmo the robot.

I've seen so many 'intelligent' robotic toys over the years. What fun it is when they immediately walk into a wall and fall over, displaying all the human warmth and charm of a spanner, or Theresa May! 

Cozmo from the geniuses behind Anki Overdrive may finally change all that. 

Put together by a team of 'Ph.D. roboticists, world-class animators, and renowned game developers', it takes a similar approach to Overdrive, using a iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire app to control a real-world toy.

Cozmo, however, has far more self-determination than the cars in Overdrive. He can roam about, getting to know his surroundings, and uses facial recognition to learn about you, too.

He's weirdly obsessed with stacking crates – or 'Power Cubes', if you will – and can also play a range of games – I totally beat him at a crate-based variant on Slapsies. 

What makes this fun as opposed to 'fun' is that Cozmo has a distinct and evolving personality. Animators from Dreamworks and elsewhere have helped make his ostensibly very simple OLED screen face remarkably expressive, and through AI, he's able to express emotions, from joy at seeing a familiar face, to throwing a massive sulk when he loses at Slapsies. 

Via the app, he's even got his own mood-matching musical soundtrack. 

Cozmo was the second-biggest-selling toy in America last 'Holidays' and apparently sold out everywhere. Expect the same when it invades the UK this year.

For those who like to get more educational with their plastic pals, there's also a well-thought-through, free SDK that allows easy access to some extremely powerful functionality, including facial recognition. 

Cozmo goes on sale September 15 for £199.99. It's available to pre-order now, with Cozmo Collector’s Edition in Liquid Metal Finish exclusive to anki.com and Argos.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years, during which time he has attended every event going, apart from Apple ones, as he mysteriously doesn't get invited to them. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. 

Duncan's current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. Duncan also edits T3's golf section because fuck it, someone has to. Dave Usher does all the real work on that bit, though. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially Reddit before the invention of Reddit. There was a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."