Q&A with Anki
Robotics innovation Anki OVERDRIVE has recently launched in the UAE. Business Review Middle East talks to Anki’s Stuart Collingwood to find out more about the region’s games and technology sector
What is Anki OVERDRIVE?
Anki OVERDRIVE features state-of-the-art modular tracks, physical robotic supercars and innovations in battle-racing gameplay. It merges toys, videogames and robotics technology. Players can build their own battle-race courses and pit their real-life robotic supercars against their friends or step up against enemy AI opponents in the game’s campaign mode. And with continuous software updates with new features and functionalities, the gameplay always stays fresh.
Since 2010, our mission has been to harness robotics and AI technology to bring to life consumer products with unprecedented level of intellect and interactive capabilities. The entertainment space has always been a great entry point for us as it’s one that hasn’t evolved much in decades, meaning there's opportunities for great innovation.
Anki OVERDRIVE launched in UAE in May 2016, and is currently available at select stores across Dubai and Abu Dhabi including Harvey Nichols, Virgin Megastore outlets, Dubai Duty Free, Hub Zero, and Souq.com.
Why did you chose the UAE for your next launch after Europe?
The UAE market appealed to us for several reasons. A recent Euromonitor report suggested that the retail value for UAE’s toys and games industry will reach $1.06 billion by 2019. Globally, UAE has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations for retailers, largely spurred by a growing middle class with disposable incomes and, widespread adoption of smartphones. Key events like the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good and World Drone Prix were strong indicators of consumer interest and confidence in robotics and AI technologies, which make up the core of the Anki OVERDRIVE experience.
How does the toy/gaming industry differ in the UAE from Europe/US?
The widespread adoption of smartphones in the UAE, and the propensity that consumers here have to use their smartphone as a gaming device are characteristics that make the UAE standout. Also, with a thriving middle class, the UAE is becoming a premier shopping destination with thousands of square meter of retail space being added every year.
Is there anything similar already on the market in the UAE?
There’s no other company in the world which offers similar state-of-the-art technology, which translates to one-of-a kind battle-racing experience.
Did you work with any local partners for the launch?
We are working with Virgin Megastore and Harvey Nichols, both which have set up Anki OVERDRIVE demo stations in their retail locations across Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
How important do you think local knowledge is for a launch like this?
As the toys and games space becomes increasingly crowded (and thus more competitive), it was paramount that we understood UAE’s market trends; marketing and advertising best practices; and, most importantly, consumer preferences, before we entered the market with Anki OVERDRIVE. With the UAE, we were confident that Anki OVERDRIVE would resonate with consumers, and are thrilled by the positive reception we’ve received to date.
How have you been able to contribute to Dubai’s ‘smart city’ agenda?
Whilst many may see Anki Overdrive as a radio-control toy car, it is in fact much more than that. Players are able to bring virtual battle-races to real life at the intersection of games, toys and robotics. All of this is possible due to the underlying robotics and artificial intelligence, which hasn’t been seen in a mass consumer product. Anki is proud to introduce a product to the UAE market that uses robotics and AI that resonates with UAE’s vision to embrace advanced technology to create new experiences.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”