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By Jason Ankeny • Aug 29, 2014

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Boris Sofman was a bundle of nerves. But who wouldn't be? He was about to launch his San Francisco-based startup, Anki, on the most pressure-packed stage imaginable: Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the annual showcase for the computer giant's latest software innovations.

About 10 minutes in to the WWDC 2013 opening keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook ceded the spotlight to Sofman, who walked onstage carrying what appeared to be a large, rolled-up poster. He unfurled it across the stage floor, revealing a racing track for toy cars emblazoned with the logo "Anki Drive." An Anki staff engineer placed three 3-inch vehicles on the track, and the toys automatically sprung to life, chasing one another around the oval.

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