If you have a robot in your home today, chances are it vacuums your floor or mows your lawn. And while you may be thankful for the back pain the little guy spares you, I’m willing to bet you don’t consider this industrious single-tasker your friend.
Tim Enwall, the CEO of Misty Robotics, thinks that needs to change.
A robot “can’t be this mechanized piece of metal that runs around the house or office,” said Enwall. “It has to be able to develop a relationship with us.”
I recently had a conversation with Enwall about the future of personal robotics for the Smart Home Show. How we relate to robots is something Enwall thinks a lot about since his company has made it their mission to be the first to create a real world version of Rosie, the famed cartoon robot from the Jetsons.
Enwall outlined four features that Misty CTO and founder Ian Bernstein sees as crucial for a personal robot:
It’s got to be familiar. “It can’t be freaky, it can’t put us off,” said Enwall. He admitted that many of today’s robots have too much uncanny vally-esque creepiness. “We will get there, but today they’re too off putting.”
It has to develop a relationship with us. This is where Enwall points out robots can’t just be metal cans running around our homes. “That’s not going to be valuable or interesting to us,” said Enwall.
It’s got to be multifunction. “We can’t go buy 20 single purpose robots for our house or office,” said Enwall. Here Enwall essentially points out today’s world of primarily single purpose robots is not sustainable. In other words, unless we want to add a room to our home for a robot garage, we’re going to need robots that can perform multiple tasks.
It has to be useful. While this one seems related to the last one, it makes sense to break it out. A multifunction robots that can do many chores is something I would put hard-earned money down for.
Lastly, Enwall added a fifth characteristic he believes important for personal robots, one which essentially makes them human-like:
It has to be able to manipulate things. Here Enwall is basically points out what makes man different from other animals, and that robots need to do the same. I’m assuming Misty’s robots will, at some point, have something resembling opposable thumbs.
I had gotten to know Enwall from his days running smart home startup Revolv before their acquisition by Google, and earlier this year he went over to run Sphero’s new personal robot spinout. He’d gotten to know the founders of Sphero through being a part of the Boulder startup scene, which Enwall has been active part of since his days as CEO of pioneering home energy management startup Tendril.