Back in 2018, a struggling Sphero needed a change. Post-Disney IP deal, life hadn’t been easy for the Colorado robotic toy firm, so it looked to a potentially lucrative new sector: STEM education. History, as Mark Twain may or may not have ever said, rhymes. The source of the quote is uncertain, but the truth is extremely applicable in the world of startups, as Sphero spinout Misty Robotics is undergoing its own educational pivot.
Misty is one of those interesting ideas that was never able to fully find purchase. After a ouple of years looking to sell its adorable little robot platform to software and hardware developers, the company was ultimately acquired by the strangely named Swedish firm, Furhat. The two teams spoke of a “unified vision” when the news was announced in January, and this product relaunch is seemingly the first step toward achieving it.
“There was always great synergy between Furhat and Misty and with this launch you can see how that’s playing out,” Furhat co-founder and CEO Samer Al Moubayed says in a release.”We’ve updated Misty’s conversational capabilities with a focus on natural language understanding and conversational skills. We also believe that social robots need to reach a much wider sector of society, and be part of the educational system, to prepare the next generation of talent. Misty is designed especially to optimize learning and engagement, and has both an attractive and rich design, and very advanced sensors and hardware, making it unique in the market today.”
The move reconfirms something we’ve known for a long time: consumer robots are hard. Even as the technology is taking off across a wide range of sectors, from fulfillment to construction to healthcare, no one’s been able to fully crack the code, outside of some robot vacuums. So Misty and Furhat are, understandably, going where the money is: specifically, education and research.
The teams cite more intuitive development tools that use Python, coupled with a drag and drop interface as a key toward opening accessibility to more educators and students. That’s coupled with a new version of the robot’s SDK. Furhat is looking to expand Misty’s presence in the U.S. and its native Sweden, while targeting researchers in healthcare, who are looking toward social robotics as a method for working with patients with conditions like Alzheimer’s and autism.