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Erik Dietrich
Erik Dietrich

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Live Blogging at DeveloperWeek: Introduction to Misty Robotics SDK

I'm live blogging my experience at DeveloperWeek, en masse, at my site. You can follow along there, or look for me to post some talk summaries here, individually.

I couldn't miss this talk. 20+ years ago, the main thing that drove me toward a CS degree was the promise of programming robots. And here's a real, live robot.

This is a demonstration of the Misty Robotics SDK, by Justin Woo.

I wound up coming in a little late, because of difficulty finding the right stages, but I was immediately intrigued. He spun the robot around and showed an Arduino in her backside, and talked about her finger-print sensing capability, making her well suited for security.

He also cited some other good use cases for a small, friendly-demeanor robot:

  • Education, innovation, experimentation
  • Elder care
  • Concierge services at hotels

Now for some live coding!

Demonstrating the API

Justin fired up a browser-based command center, and showed capabilities like changing her LED (in her chest) to different colors and having her play sounds. He also did a detailed walk through of the different sensors that she has that you can use.

From there, he introduced us to the idea that the robot is exposing her API as a REST endpoint. He showed a demo of sending a POST request to change Misty's color.

(As an aside, Misty is very easy to anthromporphize and, dare I say, cute. She blinks expectantly at you and makes friendly sounds, and it kind of creates the feeling that she's a smart, friendly pet.)

Justin then demonstrated that they'd integrated with Twilio to rig up something where you can send SMS messages that trigger certain REST endpoints. So he was sending text messages like "get sleepy" and she responded by doing it.

The last thing that he showed involved VS Code. The idea is to allow you to deploy code to Misty even when she's not connected to the internet.

So he showed some Javascript code in the IDE that he could deploy directly from there to the robot. The code he demonstrated had her recognize a face and respond happily. So he deployed, spun her around, and she recognized him and seemed pleased.

I think that immediately makes Misty superior to my cats.

My Takeaway

I love this so much on a personal level, just because of my lifelong interest in the subject matter. I have no practical application that I can think of for Misty, but it'd sure be fun to have one and program her to truck around my house, smiling and applauding when I do mundane house chores.

Immediately, I looked up her price point, and it's a non-trivial $3K, so I probably won't get out my credit card in the immediate future. But I'd sure like to keep my eye on this for when I'm either a lot richer or the entry level price comes down.

But, if you work for, say, an app dev agency and you bring customers in to try to impress them, I think you could do worse than buying a few for your bench devs to play with. Seems like it'd be a great, attention-grabbing way to showcase the team's ingenuity.

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