The Anki Overdrive Car Project

At the end of 2015, our team was wrapping up projects that would be shown at the main Oracle conference, Oracle OpenWorld.

As with every OOW, we like to come up with a fun project that shows attendees our spirit of innovation by building cool projects within Oracle.

The team was thinking about building something cool with kids’ racetracks. We all were collectively in charge of looking for alternatives, so we visited a toy store to get ideas and see products that already existed out there.

We looked pretty cool racetracks but none of them suited our needs for functionality and of course, we didn’t have enough time to invest on modifying some of them.

So, searching through internet someone came up with Anki OVERDRIVE cars, yes, that product that was announced back in 2013 at Apple WWDC keynote. To sum up, Anki provides a racetrack that includes flexible plastic magnets tracks that can be chained together and to allow for any racetrack configuration, rechargeable cars that have an optical sensor underneath to keep the car on the track, a lot of fun features like all kinds of virtual weapons, cars upgrades, etc., a companion app for both Android and iOS platform to operate the cars and a software development kit (SDK).

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For us, it was exactly what we were looking for. But now we needed to find a way to control the cars without using the companion app because, you know, that was boring and we wanted more action and go one step further.

So after discussing different approaches, I suggested to control cars with Myo gesture control armband that basically is a wireless touch-free, wearable gesture control and motion device. We had Myo armband already, but we hadn’t played with it much. Good thing that Myo band has an SDK too, so we had everything ready to build a cool demo 🙂

So it was time to get my hands dirty and start coding! The general idea was to build an Android app that receives Myo gestures and motion, translate and map those values and send them to the Anki car to control its speed and receive messages from the car to know its status and take action. As a plus, we wanted to count laps to make a real racing car contest with the attendees.

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I started investigating how to control the Anki cars with the SDK, and I found that they just provide a C implementation of the message protocols and data parsing routines necessary for communicating with the Anki Drive vehicles. And that the initial release has the minimal number of functions required to use the message protocol and parse information sent by vehicles. And finally, that version provides a limited subset of a messaging protocol. Knowing that, I was sure that tracking number of laps would be a hard task so I decided to get table that for another day.

I dove into the SDK to understand the message protocols and how to translate that to the Android SDK to have full control of the vehicle plus how to pair them through Bluetooth with the Android device; I have to admit, it was difficult at the beginning as documentation is very limited. Also, I found that nothing that you do will work until you send and set a SDK_MODE flag, so make a note if you want to do any Anki builds.

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Myo integration was more transparent as they already provide an Android SDK with cool examples. So I just had to code Bluetooth paring and map and translate gestures and motions into a valid speed for the Anki cars.

I set two gestures and motions to control speed. The first one was rotating the wrist to the right to increase speed or rotating the wrist to the left to decrease speed, and second was moving the arm up to increase or down to decrease speed.

I’m sure there are a lot of gestures or motions we could have used and implemented, but those were enough for our proof of concept and demo.

Here you can see a development testing.

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I’ve been to two conferences where this demo has been shown, and the attendees’ “wow” reaction is very gratifying, and that my fiends is the whole idea of this demo and this team, the “wow” moment 🙂

Of course, it was shown at OOW 2015, and you can read more about it here.

Also, this demo has its own spot in OAUX Gadget Lab, so come by and have some fun time with it and our others demos that live in the lab.

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6 comments

  1. Hey,

    Is this project on Github?

    I’m trying to work with ANKI now and not having much luck.

    Cheers,
    Eric

  2. @Eric: No, sorry, we can’t put it on Github. A quick search of Github shows some project referencing anki overdrive, so hoping one of those will help you.

  3. Hi can you explain to me how you read the data that the anki car sends to the Raspberry Pi. I would like to build it at home but I am able only to change the line and the speed with the sdk for the Raspberry Pi. Thank you in advance :)
    sorry for my bad English

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