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Misty the adorable robot just wants to be your friend

It's much more than Alexa on wheels.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Ever wanted your very own Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons?

Misty II might be the answer. I'm at the Misty Robotics headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, where a robot has just brought me a cup of coffee and flashed hearts in its LCD screen eyes.

Just like Rosie, Misty Robotics hopes its eponymous robot becomes part of the family. With a range of sensors and cameras, Misty II can do everything from map a room to recognize your face.

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Amazon is reportedly working on a home robot, and there's plenty of current competition from other cute robots, such as Kuri, Pepper and Buddy. So what makes Misty different?

It's a robot development platform for coders and students so they can create all sorts of skills, from mapping rooms, securing the perimeter of your home or acting as a voice assistant.

I get to see one of these skills in action that could be useful in an office situation for greeting guests. After registering my face with the robot, Misty greets me and turns around, searching for the person I'm visiting to let them know I'm here.

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Using Blockly, I coded Misty to deliver a cup of coffee to a visitor within a few seconds.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

"We definitely want Misty to do useful stuff for us, but she's also kind of like your little buddy," says Founder and Head of Product Ian Bernstein.

Part of creating that bond with a robot comes through its personality. Engineers trialled a combination of over 200 eyes to find just the right ones. Eventually, the robot will be able to respond to different inputs, such as your facial expression or the tone of your voice, and adapt accordingly.

For experienced programmers and developers, one area that Bernstein hopes they tackle is elder care. You could create a skill where Misty uses a computer vision model to recognize someone lying on the floor. "If she hears a loud noise, she can localize with her far field microphones and go and check it out," says Bernstein. If the person is not OK, the robot could phone for help.

Misty II is also modular. You can swap in items like cupholders in place of arms, hitch a magnetic trailer at the back, or attach something as crazy as an LED mohawk powered via an Arduino backpack. Future versions will add to this modular concept, with the next Misty potentially being able to pick things up and move them around.

Bernstein doesn't have a specific time frame for when Misty's skill store will be fully fledged enough for home users, so someone who's not a programmer can browse and find a specific skill. "Hopefully not too long," he says.

Whether or not a market exists for home robots remains to be seen. Many of the other bots on the market like Kuri and Buddy cost more than $500, while Pepper, which is primarily for businesses, is $360 per month. Misty is currently available for $2,000, shipping in February 2019.

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