Misty Robotics, a spin-off of BB-8 toy creator Sphero, today unveiled the second generation of its robot, called Misty II. The company also announced that it was making 1,500 Misty II units available for preorder over the next 30 days. The units are expected to ship by December 4.
The units are available now at three different pricing tiers. The first 250 backers will get a Misty II at $1,499. Another 1,175 backers can get a Misty II at $1,599. And a final 75 backers can order a “get started now” bundle of both a Misty I and a Misty II that’s offered at $2,499.
The company made the announcement today at the Collision Conference in New Orleans.
Misty Robotics is calling the limited-time sale a crowdfunding campaign, but unlike a traditional Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, Misty Robotics isn’t looking to get a certain number of backers in order to fulfill orders.
“Crowdfunding [campaigns] are special events where a community gets an amazing deal and launches a product on its journey. And that’s what we’re doing,” CEO Tim Enwall told VentureBeat.
Spun off from Sphero in 2017 and headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, Misty has an ambitious vision: to put a robot in every home and every office. Enwall, formerly a Nest executive, and founder and head of product Ian Bernstein believe that the way to do that is to first put Misty in the hands of developers. They explain that the steps needed to make a personal robot a household item are the same steps that were necessary to make the personal computer a household item.
“They didn’t just launch computers, and there were 50 applications. It took years for developers to build VisiCalc, and games, and then [personal computers] took off [for the average consumer],” Bernstein told VentureBeat.
Misty II weighs six pounds and stands at 14 inches high. Given that Misty II is a robot for the home and the office, it comes with features designed to help it navigate around those environments — a 3D Occipital sensor for mapping, a 4K Sony camera for facial and object recognition, and eight sensors for obstacle avoidance.
Earlier this year, the company unveiled Misty I, which a few dozen developers had to apply to get access to. Enwall estimates that Misty I and Misty II share “95 percent” of the same hardware and software, but the company did find that developers expressed more interest in harnessing voice control than the team initially thought, so they added a second microphone to Misty II.
Enwall and Bernstein highlighted a variety of use cases for Misty II — for example, the robot could serve as a security guard and leave its “post” when it hears an unexpected noise, and it could answer the door, or check whether the kids did their chores. But the ultimate goal is for developers to come up with use cases that the founding team might not have thought of.
A large part of the company’s success will depend on whether developers can create killer applications for the robot. Misty II owners will have access to a repository of skills developed by the company and other Misty owners. But the longer-term goal is to create a skills marketplace where developers can list skills for others to purchase.
Other technical specs to note: Misty is capable of running on TensorFlow, Caffe, and Windows ML and has two Qualcomm Snapdragon processors running Windows IoT Core and Android 7 operating systems.
In June, Misty Robotics raised $11.5 million in venture capital in a round led by Venrock and Foundry Group.
Updated at 8:35 a.m. to correct the name of the program that Bernstein namechecked, in referring to early programs and apps that helped the personal computer take off. It is VisiCalc.
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