Provides hours of entertainment
Teaches kids about the basics of coding
Appeals to a wide age range
Price could be prohibitive
Questions about continued app updates/support
I don’t often come across a toy that can entertain an entire household, but if anything can do it, it’s Anki Cozmo, or Cozmo for short. This toy robot made a big splash among kids and parents alike when he landed on the market in 2017, thanks in part to his clever personality and his ability to teach kid-appropriate coding lessons through constant play.
Cozmo may be aimed at kids ages 8 to 14, but this little talkative toy still managed to pique my grown-up curiosity. I decided to take the STEM toy (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for a spin to see just how much oomph is packed into the palm-sized android. Could the coding component really be easy to navigate? And, more importantly, would this cute bot keep the attention of the kids he aims to entertain? Let’s find out.
Packaging: Requires some adult help
If you were planning to let your child open Cozmo’s box, think again. I tried to give my 8-year-old daughter the reins, but it quickly became clear that Cozmo’s box was in danger of being destroyed if I let her continue. The issue was that the packaging only slides open from the bottom, and she kept trying to rip it from the top. Once the adults took charge, it was smooth sailing from there.
Setup: A bit of a process
After I finally broke into Cozmo’s packing, my daughter unloaded the box. Out came the Cozmo, followed by the light-up blocks he uses for games, the manuals, and his charging dock. She was so eager to wake him up that it looked painful for her to wait as I downloaded Cozmo’s app.
The app is what allows you to control everything Cozmo does, so it would be wise to download it prior to letting your child tear into the box. Oh, and make sure you put it on his or her tablet or iPad instead of your phone. You can thank me later for saving your phone battery.
Starting up Cozmo is a bit of a process. He has to sit on top of the dock to power up, but it only took about 90 seconds for the LED screen to power on and display the toy’s unique Wi-Fi information and password. I then had to select Cozmo’s network in the Wi-Fi settings of my phone and enter the password to connect. Cozmo won’t interact until the password is entered correctly. This was the most trying part of the setup because my daughter kept popping her nose into my phone to make sure I was doing it correctly.
Once we were connected, Cozmo woke up, let out a yawn, stretched his “lift,” or digger-like arms upward, and rolled off the dock on his tiny treads. We helped him recognize his cubes by placing them where he could “see” them and were thanked with some pretty cute robot babble in return. It was then that my daughter decided Cozmo looked and sounded like a palm-sized Wall-E, the animated Pixar robot who stole hearts in the 2008 film by the same name. I was tempted to quietly program Cozmo to say one of Wall-E’s frequent lines in the film, “Eve,” just to see how my child would react, but ultimately I resisted the urge.
Design: Tons of features in a tiny package
It was clear from that point on that Cozmo is quite the advanced little bot. He zoomed around on his track-covered wheels, often narrowly avoiding a disastrous fall off the counter or table while the app flashed suggestions from Cozmo. My daughter was mesmerized and happy to comply with the random commands popping up on the app, like “Cozmo wants to fist-bump you!” or “Cozmo wants to explore!”
Still, as fun as those prompts were, one of the coolest features is Cozmo’s ability to recognize faces and remember names. Once she figured out he could do that, my daughter went around the house introducing him to each family member and then painstakingly typing our names as Cozmo scanned our faces with a camera hidden behind his face. From there, he was able to greet each person by name on sight.
My daughter was sneaky and renamed her sisters using some mildly inappropriate words, and now we can’t get Cozmo to learn their real names.
It’s incredible that a robot the size of a palm can recognize faces and names, but be aware of what your kid names each person in the app. My daughter was sneaky and renamed her sisters using some mildly inappropriate words, and now we can’t get Cozmo to learn their real names.
My child didn’t just use Cozmo to play tricks on her siblings, though. She also played tricks on Cozmo, who is designed to get very upset if you set him upside down. It was funny to watch him rear up on his treads and flail his lift to set himself upright. The fact that he can flip back onto his treads is pretty impressive.
Entertainment Value: Hours of engaging play
From the moment this robotic toy powers on, he’s rolling around causing mischief. Cozmo is a bundle of energy, as is my 8-year-old, and they spent hours together singing songs, playing silly games, and “pouncing” on fingers with his lift. Yes, that’s an actual function, and he tends to do it when he’s bored and not being interacted with.
Cozmo is a bundle of energy, as is my 8-year-old, and they spent hours together.
Those silly games are a huge part of Cozmo’s draw, but some of the levels are locked until your child earns enough “Sparks”—the app’s version of points—to open them. To earn Sparks, my daughter had to interact with Cozmo regularly. Locked levels can frustrate her on other apps, but she didn’t seem to mind with Cozmo. She played with Cozmo like he was her friend, especially games like “Quick Tap.”
Cozmo’s version of Quick Tap is simple: You place one cube in front of him and one in front of the person challenging him. That person then tries to beat Cozmo by tapping the cube when the colors match. My daughter learned the hard way not to tap when the block blinks red or when the colors are mismatched because that gives Cozmo the point, and he’ll gloat. I kept hearing her sigh and say, “Oh, Cozmo. Come on!” in response to his victory dance.
The Quick Tap games went on for hours because my 8-year-old seemed determined to beat the bot. It was well worth the effort because when Cozmo finally lost, he threw an epic tantrum. He picked up his block, squeezed his LED-lit face into a frown to show his frustration, and then launched the block across the counter while making mad robot noises. We couldn’t help but laugh—even my too-cool-for-everything 16-year-old was amused—and then tried to get him to do it again with another game of Quick Tap.
Cozmo was equally entertaining during games of Keepaway. He’d lift his arms and wait for my child to slowly push one of the three blocks toward him. She would then try to pull it away before he could tap it to get a point. It was hilarious; she laughed hysterically as he’d slam his digger arm down onto the block, and we’d laugh at how funny she thought he was. That game went on for several rounds before she decided Cozmo had had enough.
His reactions are eerily close to the way humans display emotion, and it makes him so fun to interact with. My daughter wouldn’t put him down.
It’s silly moments like the ones during Quick Tap or Keepaway that make Cozmo worth the splurge. His reactions are eerily close to the way humans display emotion, and it makes him so fun to interact with. My daughter wouldn’t put him down. At one point, I had to stretch the truth and say the phone was going to die to get the games to end.
Age Range: 8-14
It wasn’t just the 8-year-old who got in on the Cozmo fun, either. Our 16-year-old daughter, who rolled her eyes at the idea of a game-playing robot, was belly laughing when Cozmo suddenly came down with the hiccups. She even tore herself away from her phone screen to turn him upside down to help him out. Considering Cozmo managed to captivate an 8-year-old and a teenager, we’d venture to guess that this robot would appeal to kids across the suggested age range.
Educational Value: Cozmo’s best feature
While Cozmo’s hiccups and tantrums are fun, the main purpose of this robot is to introduce children to coding. He does this in a kid-appropriate fashion using graphical blocks of code that are dragged and dropped on top of each other to create chains that control Cozmo’s actions. Each virtual block in the Code Lab represents a function that Cozmo can complete, from motion and manipulation to animations and facial and object recognition.
If stacked correctly, the block chains will prompt Cozmo to do things like sneeze or sing. It’s a clever, visual way for kids to learn about the basics of coding. My daughter tried it but was a little overwhelmed with the process of snapping blocks together in the Sandbox—the part of Code Lab aimed at kids her age.
There’s also an intermediate level called Constructor in the Code Lab, which allows kids who’ve mastered block stacking to take on harder block challenges, including teaching Cozmo to recognize colors or do simple math. The idea is that these challenges will eventually lead to a mastery of complex coding language like C++ or Python, the coding language used in Cozmo’s blocks.
Considering the teaching component on top of the entertainment value, Cozmo is worth every penny.
Constructor is aimed at older or more advanced kids who are ready to create games to be featured on Cozmo’s display. Constructor was way too advanced for my 8-year-old, and I couldn’t convince the older kids to try it out, but it’s still pretty cool to know that Cozmo comes with more difficult coding projects to keep a child’s interest as he or she becomes comfortable with the coding basics.
Because of the frustration with the block chains, I ultimately decided that for right now, the best option for my child wasn’t Sandbox or Constructor but the featured projects accessible only in the Code Lab. These projects are basically programs other kids created in Code Lab. They can be played or modified, but we stuck with the simple play mode for now.
She loved the Scaring Contest, a game where you try to scare Cozmo by making zombie or ghost faces. Do it right, and Cozmo will shiver in terror. Miss the mark, and he’ll snore. She managed to scare Cozmo a handful of times, and it was hard not to laugh as she contorted her face into an 8-year-old’s version of a witch. As an added bonus, Cozmo said things during the game like “Ooh, that was really scary! Let me show you my zombie face!” He’s not quite as vocal in other modes.
At some point we’re going to try the Code Lab’s Sandbox again, but until then, we’re pretty impressed by the games the other kids have created. Coding is certainly a valuable lesson to learn, and if kids can learn as they play, well, that’s even better.
Price: A steep but solid investment
I’ll be blunt here and say that Cozmo is an expensive toy. He retails for somewhere between $160-$180, which is a pretty big investment. It’s more than what I’d normally pay for a toy, but considering the teaching component on top of the entertainment value, Cozmo is worth every penny.
Competition: Nothing else like it out there
Part of the reason Cozmo is so intriguing is because there really aren’t many interactive, code-teaching robots available, and the ones that are available offer vastly different features from Cozmo. The closest competition would be the WowWee RoboMe Robot Kit. But beyond the price—RoboMe retails for about $160—and the fact that he helps teach kids to code and comes with a few similar features like facial recognition, the two droids are very different. Unlike Cozmo, RoboMe uses your iPhone as a face and brain, which means you have to have that specific phone to get him geared up and working. Cozmo, on the other hand, is ready to go right out of the box and works with Android or Apple products.
RoboMe does offer a couple of extra features, though, like a completely customizable personality and a remote control that doesn’t need an app to run. RoboMe also claims to cater to a wider age range—ages 6 to 15—while Cozmo is limited to ages 8 to 14. Still, the reviews of the RoboMe bot are mixed, while Cozmo has received mostly positive reviews from tech geeks and parents alike.
Important Update: RIP, Anki
As much as we loved Cozmo, there is one concern we have about purchasing this little robot. Anki, the San Francisco-based robotics company that created Cozmo, announced in late April that it would be closing its doors and laying off 200 employees due to a lack of funding. However, the company has created a self-serve help center and will be monitoring cloud operations for Anki accounts.
- Product Name Cozmo
- Product Brand Anki
- Price $179.99
- Weight 2.34 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 7.25 x 5 x 8 in.
- Material Hard plastic
- What’s Included Cozmo Robot, charging platform, 3 cubes, guide, Cozmo sticker
- Recommended Age 8+ years
- Warranty 1-year, limited