Some of our favorite smart toys of 2018—from Anki Cozmo to littlebits’ Droid Inventor Kit to LEGO BOOST—all have block-based coding interfaces, encouraging kids to learn how to code as they control their robo-buddies.
Others, like Sphero’s R2-D2 and BB-8, focus less on hand-coding and more on cool features, like the Force Band.
Now Misty Robotics, a spinoff of Sphero, has announced Misty II, a crowdfunded robot that can be coded to do pretty much anything you want, from greeting guests to controlling your smart home devices to bringing you a beer—that is, if you’re a good enough coder to teach it how.
Designed for more serious robot fans, Misty II retails for $3,200 (about £2,350, AU$4,250), but as of publication a limited number are on sale for 50% off.
Robots coming to US backers should ship out December 4, while international buyers will have to wait longer (no specific date was provided).
To justify the price tag, Misty Robotics (MR) stuck tons of tech goodies onto the robot. It runs on two Snapdragon processors (no word on which model), a Windows 10 IoT Core, and an Android 7 operating system for navigation.
Misty II’s head comes with a 4K Sony camera for facial recognition and a 4.3-inch LCD display to express emotions.
Misty II comes equipped with some handy capabilities out of the box. It will map your household for self-navigation, recognize the faces of its owners, greet visitors with unfamiliar faces, self-charge when it needs to (it apparently has “up to two hours” of charge), respond to voice commands, and show off its “adaptive personality” engine.
“We are focused on creating the personal robot of the future that developers and makers can build upon as well as share skills and ideas for what a robot can be,” Ian Bernstein, Founder and Head of Product, said in a statement.
“Crowdfunding the Misty II robot aligns with our mission of building a community for developers and makers… We are excited to see what they build on Misty and then share with the larger community.”
The Misty Robotics site lists a number of skill ideas to code into the Misty II, such as guarding your house while you’re out, “interpreting Ikea instructions”, changing the TV channel for you, and playing with your pets.
It uses a simple Blockly coding interface, and MR claims coding your bot to perform tasks like these will take less than 30 minutes.
Misty II comes with a cute backpack for storing computer attachments like USB sticks or Arduino hardware for advanced computing.
You can also control it with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. And its operating system can run Tensorflow, Caffe, and WindowsML “within hardware optimized runtimes”.
Who is this for?
Is Misty II truly something that casual robotics fans with no coding knowledge can enjoy, or will most of Misty II’s coolest tricks require getting hardcore into coding?
“Misty II is built for programmers, students, and entrepreneurs interested in robots but have never been able to ‘program a robot’ because they were either too expensive, required a degree in programming, or lacked useful skills for everyday tasks,” MR’s product page reads.
So, hobbyists interested in advanced robotics will have an opportunity with Misty II to learn coding with a fun platform that they wouldn’t normally get outside of a robotics company or engineering program.
But, as with Segway’s crowdfunded Loomo companion robot, Misty II has a high price tag for people who won’t be using it for professional development. People looking for a cute robot companion and nothing else might want to look for a cheaper alternative.
You may also want to hold out for Misty III. CEO Tim Enwall told CNET that the next iteration of Misty could have improved AI and battery life, among other things.