Way back in 2011, brainiacs from Willow Garage recognized the need for a task-agnostic robot that developers and students could use as a platform for their own creations. Enter Turtlebot, a roving mobile shelf, essentially, built for robotic customization.
The need for task-agnostic robotics platforms hasn't diminished, and now Misty II, another platform robot, albeit one with more baked-in character than Turtlebot, is available to the public.
Misty Robotics, the creators of the Misty platform robot, was founded by Ian Bernstein, founder and previous CTO of Sphero, the connected toy company.
"There are more than 23 million developers around the world and they are the key to unlocking the future of robots, previously only available to the world of roboticists," said Bernstein, now Head of Product at Misty. "For the price of a computer, developers can bring their code to life and freeing it from the 2D world of a browser. We've already seen some of our crowdfunding backers start to solve real world problems. The possibilities are really endless, and we are excited to see what they build next."
The core of the idea is that hardware development is hard, expensive, and time consuming, but it doesn't have to be. Much like phone hardware has given rise to the app ecosystem, generalized robotics platforms could underpin an explosion in development across many use cases. Something similar is already happening in the sphere of collaborative robotics, where task-agnostic robotic arms have been deployed on jobs in a diverse array of settings, from eyeglass manufacturers to hospitals and auto shops.
So what about the robot? Misty II includes a pre-built Command Center, Skill Runner, and API Explorer, which are accessible through an easy to navigate SDK interface. Developers can extend Misty II's capabilities by integrating with third party APIs such as those provided by Twilio, Microsoft, and Google. Additionally, Misty II can be expanded through third party hardware such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi and physically expanded through 3D printing. The robot is also equipped with sophisticated technology such as the 3D depth camera, microphone array, several Qualcomm processors, as well as obstacle detection and capacitive touch sensors.
In other words, it's a rich sensor platform suited to the whims of your imagination. Practical projects featured on the website include a roving security robot and a fire monitor.
"Companies like Misty Robotics are spearheading the new generation of smart, connected robots – devices that are playing larger and larger roles in people's lives," said Dev Singh, Director, Business Development and Head of Robotics, Drones & Intelligent Machines, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "We are happy to enable the exciting Misty II platform with cutting-edge technologies like our heterogenous computing architecture, advanced image processing, and on-device AI in our power-efficient IoT chipsets, and we look forward to seeing what people will create with the platform."
The Misty II robot is available for a limited time at $2899, which is a hefty price tag if you're a general consumer but may look like a substantial price savings if you're a developer considering whether to buy or build. Normal MSRP is around $3200.