I have had the occasion to talk to kids about technology in the recent past, and I like to use different hardware to demonstrate different concepts. Among the technologies I show the children is artificial intelligence, and the best way I have found to demonstrate it is with the Robotic Enhanced Vehicles (R.E.V.) from WowWee toys.
The R.E.V. set comes with two toys cars, a black one and a white one. The cars are remote controlled via bluetooth and can battle each other with virtual weapons “mounted” to the front. Syncing the car to the phone is as simple as tapping the phone to the top of the car once it is turned on then being able to drive it. Two people can challenge each other trying to shoot up the other car until one of the cars runs out of hit points.
The strength of the R.E.V. is in its ability to have a computer control one of the cars. After syncing one car, the other can be activated as an artificial intelligence that will hunt down and try to take down the player’s car before the player can take out the npc car. In the campaign mode, the cars get successively tougher to battle against as the bot cars get smarter, but the more one plays the more the player car levels up and the better the player car gets.
While the R.E.V. is not Skynet and probably not going to lead to the singularity, it rivals some of the artificial intelligence found in video games. According to WowWee, R.E.V. is “designed with advanced compact robotics, independent wheel-based propulsion and BeaconSense GPS tracking, working together via a CPU processing at 16 million cycles per second – for the sole purpose of hunting you down.”
The R.E.V. is like a physical video game that plays out on the floor as the cars zip back and forth trying to shoot each other. Not only is it a good example to teach about artificial intelligence, it is also a lot of fun to play and fun to watch others play, cheering them on as the cars face off against each other.