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Welcome to the Weird World of Mixed-Reality Gaming Where the gap between the digital and the real starts to blur.

By Jason Ankeny

This story appears in the September 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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.

"Realize that each of them is completely driving [itself], and our app is coordinating the entire experience," Sofman told the WWDC audience. "The cars can control their speed, and they steer around the track by doing the same computations your brain does when you drive. They sense where they're located, and they react to their surroundings, all in real time … We are taking all the things we love about video games and programming them onto physical characters that you can actually touch."

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