June 25, 2019
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misty robotics

Misty’s adorable robotics platform ships in April for $2,399

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The road to consumer robots is littered with the remains of failed startups. Jibo and Kuri mark two recent examples of just how hard it is bringing such a device to market. In fact, with the exception of the single-minded Roomba line, you’d be hard-pressed to name a product that has truly hit mainstream acceptance.

It’s with that in mind, that Misty has given its substantial runway. The startup has long term goals of bringing a truly accessible mainstream robotic to market — but it’s going to take a few years and a lot of baby steps.

Things started with last year’s Misty I, a handmade version of the company’s modular robotics platform. CEO Tim Enwall tells me the company ultimately sold “dozens” of the machines, with the express plan to eventually phase the product out in favor of the more polished Misty II. The second robot is set to arrive in April, following a successful crowd funding campaign in whcih the company raised just short of $1 million.


At $2,399, the new Misty isn’t cheap (thanks, in part, to the current administration’s trade tariffs). But, then, mainstream accessibility was never really the point. Misty II may be reasonably adorable, but it’s a platform first. The company is current software and hardware developers and the maker community in an attempt to build a robust catalog of skills. Think of it something akin to the app store approach to creating robots.

The plan here is to have a full selection of skills in place before the company targets consumers, while having third-party developers do much of the heavy software lifting. Developers, meanwhile, get a reasonably accessible hardware platform on which to test their programs. By the time company eventually comes to market, the theory goes, Misty will have a robust feature set that’s been lacking in just about every consumer robot that has preceded it.

That means that Misty II is less personality driven that, say, Cosmo. The on-board sensors and data collection is far more important to the product’s appeal that Pixar-animated eyes.

Of course, the product’s success will hinge entirely on that adoption, and it’s hard to say how large the potential market is, especially at that price point. Misty II is reasonably sophisticated and could have appeal for educators, among others, but it’s not really the same class of product as, say, those developed by the now-defunct Willow Garage.

Misty is crowfunding its personal robot

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Misty Robotics has been talking a good game for 10 months now. Back in June, the Colorado-based Sphero spin-off announced its plans to develop a mainstream home robot. At CES in January, it introduced the world to the Misty I, a skeletal robotic development platform.

Four months later, it’s back with Misty II. While it looks like more of a consumer device, Misty II is still pretty far from the mainstream consumer robot the startup has been promising all along. Like its more unassuming predecessor, the Misty II “personal robot” is designed to be a kind of development platform — albeit one that’s a lot easier to write for than traditional robots.

According to Misty,

The Misty II personal robot is easy for non-technical owners to program using the Misty Blockly client, a visual block-based programming interface, to create new skills for the robot that can make it move, talk, roar and more. Pre-set blocks, or skills, will come installed on Misty II to quickly get started. Those owners with programming experience, can utilize JavaScript APIs to create more sophisticated skills and modifications, like integrating with third party services such as Alexa, Microsoft Cognitive Services, Google Assistant, and Cloud APIs.

Among the skills the company is making available through GitHub are the ability to drive autonomously, respond to commands, locate its charger and recognize faces.

In spite of getting $11.5 million in funding early on, the company is still opting to crowdfund the new robot. The campaign, which runs through the end of the month, is designed to establish a community around the robot. Those who pitch in will get the robot at a discount — though it’s still not what you would call cheap, at $1,600. That’s apparently about half of what the company expects the robot to get via retail — a price that will almost certainly keep it out of the mainstream in this early iteration. 

It should start shipping to backers in December.


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