Founders Talk – Episode #69

Building a real programmable robot

featuring Ian Bernstein

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The role of a father plays a pivotal role in a child’s life. Ian Bernstein is a former Founder of Sphero and is now the Founder and Head of Product of Misty Robotics — they’re building the first programmable robot for the home and business. It’s called Misty II. The journey of building Misty II started when Ian was 5 years old and his dad bought him an Apple IIe.

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The role a father plays in a child’s life is pivotal. Ian Bernstein formerly founded Sphero, and is now the founder and head of product at Misty Robotics, and they’re building the first programmable robot for the home and business. They call it Misty II. But this journey of building Misty II really began when Ian was just five years old, living in a remote area of New Mexico, when his dad bought him an Apple IIe.

Looking back on my side, the Apple computer was probably the biggest purchase our family made… And it was interesting - later on, it was years after I’d started Sphero, and actually more when I was thinking about these more advanced robots at Misty, I called him up to ask him why he had bought this Apple computer… And he told me, “Well, I thought computers would be the future, and I thought you should know about them.” That was the reason he bought it.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere, in rural New Mexico, I started home-schooling when I was in fourth grade, but I kind of ended up teaching myself a lot of stuff from the internet. My dad was always a facilitator. He was always looking for things that I might be interested in, and sort of finding people that knew about those topics.

When I was 11 – I’d always liked taking stuff apart. I had this cardboard box of parts, just taking apart broken cameras, and cassette players, and trying to understand how they worked and tried to fix them, but I was too young to really put them back together… But I was always curious how things worked.

So when I was 11, he found this guy who taught electronics at a tech school, so he ended up trading guitar lessons; my dad’s a classical musician.

Guitar lessons for electronics lessons for me. I learned CAD from this guy that my dad met at State Park. He was living out of his trailer. He was a machinist, and he taught me AutoCAD. So I learned from a lot of people that my dad and my mom would connect me with.

It’s interesting to hear it, too - to hear home-schooling as part of your past. Do you think in retrospect that was a big thing for you? Would you have been too preoccupied in traditional school? …I guess that’s the angle there.

[00:03:57.19] Maybe… Where I grew up, our public school is 20 miles away. It was 120 kids, K through 12. The year that I dropped out, I basically just told my parents I didn’t wanna go to school anymore. That year they combined fourth, fifth, and sixth grades into one classroom. That’s how small it was.

Wow… Yeah.

So it wasn’t like a big school, in a big city, where there’s other opportunities, and after-school programs, and AP stuff… So I think for me home-schooling, and because of my parents being facilitators, I think it worked out really well for me and I got to experience a lot of things that I don’t think I would have found if I had continued in school.

Interesting. And obviously, you’ve gone on to do some pretty cool stuff. Sphero is I guess kind of a big deal, right?

Yeah, I mean…

I think it’s a big deal. I’m just kidding around; it’s tongue-in-cheek there. I think it’s a real big deal.

I think it’s really cool. Obviously, BB-8 was awesome… For me, it’s a lot of the educational side of what we did at Sphero, a lot of kids now - I mean, since we started Sphero ten years ago, there’s kids that got into Sphero and coding when they were kids, and they’re now in college, and sometimes they get notes from people… They’re like “Hey, I’m in this field/got interested in stuff because of you and the work you guys did at Sphero with your products.” So that’s really cool.

I don’t know if this name will ring a bell for you, but Ron Evans - by any chance, does Ron Evans ring a bell to you?

Oh yeah, for sure.

Ron is a friend of the show. We’ve talked to Ron tons of times; I love Ron, he’s amazing. And I actually learned about Sphero and some of the things he was doing with it at GopherCon several years ago. On the third day of GopherCon was always this community day. Originally, it was called “The Hack Day”, but they ended up calling it “The Community Day”, I think just to sort of like bring everybody there. And while the conference was only two days, and it ended, technically, it still had this extra third day… And Ron was die-hard about Sphero, programming robots, and stuff like that. He’s since gone to do TinyGo, and embeddable Go and all these fun things… But he was really betting big on Sphero, and he was excited about BB-8 even… Obviously. It’s pretty cool.

That guy used so many Spheros… I remember Adam Wilson (my co-founder at Sphero) and I met up with him in L.A. one time, and I think he literally burned out a whole cardboard box of Spheros. There was probably 30 Spheros in there, just completely worn out. I mean, we test these things for over 100 hours easily, and these things were all scratched up, and we were swapping them out with new ones, because he was just going through them so fast. He’s in our Misty Robotics launch video too, talking about our new robot.

Yeah, let’s move on to that then. I mean, let’s not obviously gloss over all of Sphero, but let’s move into where you’re at today… And rewind as necessary. Misty Robotics is new; I think we’re talking like 2017 you had founded this, is that right? Can you open up the story there?

Yeah, so I’ve always thought about these more advanced robots, like robots in our lives, since I was a kid. I grew up with The Jetsons, and shows like that… Rosy the Robot…

That’s right.

…and I’ve always had that in the back of my mind, like “How do we bring these robots for real into our lives?” …not just movies and Star Wars and stuff. We had prototyped some stuff in the early days of Sphero, some more advanced robots, but it didn’t quite make sense; the technology wasn’t there, and for us as a company - we were making more on the toy side, educational robots… And in – well, it was 2014 when we started working on BB-8. Adam and I spent four months out in L.A, working with Disney; I learned about BB-8 from Bob Iger a year-and-a-half before episode 7 came out…

Wow, so you could have been a leaker…

[00:08:05.22] Yeah, it was crazy. Just like a little side tangent - when Bob Iger first showed us the picture, you could barely see the picture. It had his name watermarked over it, so the whole screen…

But when we started working on it for real – we had to work on it at night, when nobody else was there. When we started working on it as a company, emails and stuff would go out anytime people would come by our office, and everybody had to put them in their cabinets, in their drawers, and as soon as the person left, a Slack notice would go out and everybody would pull them out again. We had locked rooms… It was pretty crazy working on that.

We even did – at CES we had kind of a back-room, we created this bookshelf where you literally pulled-open a book and the whole bookshelf swung open… And retail partners that were sort of privileged to view that product for their buyers would go in this secret backroom to see BB-8. Yeah, it was crazy… There was no leaks on that. There was leaks to the iPhone, but there was no leaks of BB-8.

Yeah. It’s interesting too, because that was the first episode to bring Star Wars back from (I guess) the negative side of Star Wars - which we might be back to the negative side again, with going from episode 3, 4, 5, back to 1, 2, 3, and 1, 2, 3 is in many people’s eyes not part of the canon, even though it is… There’s a lot of negativity there, I suppose, around that… But then this new Star Wars episode 7 brought it back. This was Ray and all these new, interesting characters, and BB-8, obviously, and it was an interesting time for Star Wars. So it must have been cool to – I’m imagining as a kid you were a super-fan of Star Wars, considering how excited you were about working on it.

Oh, yeah. It was amazing. And when we first heard about BB-8, too - Bob Iger was like “Hey, this is the new droid in the film”, and honestly it really wasn’t until the movie came out, and we were literally in the theater, that we really knew how big the BB-8 character was gonna be. We got a little bit of a hint in the trailer, but… You know, I was like “Okay, well there’s hundreds of droids really in Star Wars… Is this just like a two-second scene with BB-8, or is this an actual name character?”

It was pretty nerve-wracking, because we put everything into BB-8, and it ended up working out very well, because BB-8 did become one of the main characters in the film.

How did you make that choice, to put everything in? What was the indicator? I suppose it was a gut feeling… Was it like “This is just super-cool. I can’t help but do it”? Was it an economic thing?

Kind of all of the above. Part of it was just like we would just want it to be a part of Star Wars, and doing something cool, which was maybe a little bit of blind faith… I mean, people at Lucas and Disney were telling us it was gonna be a big character, but we didn’t really know… They were super-secretive, too. It took months and months and months to get even just reel graphics of what BB-8 looked like. Literally, months we were going off of a sketch on my iPad that we had made after that meeting with Bob Iger… And it was kind of rough colors, and stuff; we’d really only seen it for like five seconds.

Was there anything like – any physics schematics that you had too, where you were like “Okay, this is how we operate it. This is the physics of BB-8”? Or did you have a hand in that even?

No, not really. But it was months of us asking before we finally got some video… Basically, some iPhone footage from the set, and a puppeteer pushing BB-8 around, so we could see what the movements actually looked like.

[00:12:01.11] Yeah. Describe BB-8, for those who don’t really have a perfect visual. I’m sure there’s many out there who do, but for the few who don’t, give us a visual indication of BB-8.

BB-8 is a 20-inch sphere - the actual BB-8 - with this half-spherical head on top. BB-8 is part of the Star Wars universe; its character is R2-D2. It doesn’t have a voice, like C-3PO; it’s more like beeps. The BB-8 has a lot of personality and character, and follows the Star Wars characters around and helps them in their journey.

We made a toy version of BB-8. Our BB-8 is maybe four inches tall, it connects to your phone over Bluetooth, and there’s a lot of interaction and gameplay. You can program BB-8 in schools, and all kinds of different stuff.

That’s really interesting, looking back on Sphero - I guess you have said a couple times, the toy side of things, and Misty Robotics, and what you’re doing with Misty 2 is toyish, I would say; not really toy, but more of a platform. We’ll get into that, of course…

It’s just interesting to use these things as gateways for not only young people, but even older people who are like – I don’t know, I’m just thinking like my uncle, who’s now retired, and I think he’s 65… I don’t know, I can’t recall his age. Maybe 70. I could be wrong, completely. It doesn’t matter; I’m probably way off on his age and I feel about that, so I’m trying to stutter a little bit… But the point is that people who were out of touch with technology even, that are just curious, can pick up these things and learn.

Yeah, absolutely. Going back to your original question, it was when we really started thinking about BB-8, out in L.A. - we were at Golden Road Brewery, which is right near Disney’s creative campus… And we were thinking like “What’s something potentially bigger we could do at Sphero?” And we started thinking about BB-8 that we’d just heard about a few weeks earlier… And I thought “Well, how do we make a real BB-8?” Not the toy version, or a real R2-D2. Again, not a toy version, but like a real robot…

Legit, yeah.

…in our homes, our offices, that’s really doing useful stuff for us? And of course, behind me right now I have a Roomba in the corner of my room. It is awesome, it vacuums my floor, it’s gonna vacuum it at 3 o’clock today… But how do we get robots in our homes beyond just vacuums? And we started to realize that consumers are starting to get more educated, more ready for this type of technology, especially with like voice interaction, and things like the Amazon Echo, and Siri, and Google Assistant… And also the technologies there, from the voice interaction side, that we can use, from mapping a navigation…

It was pretty early, but starting to get into place that we can navigate a home at a reasonable cost; things like computer vision, so we can give some context awareness to the robot… So that people who are curious, people who have seen these robots in movies - Star Wars, and The Jetsons, and Chappie, and Big Hero 6, and all kinds of stuff can actually start to bring some of this technology into their environments to do useful things.

What about iRobot? I say that one just because it’s funny, because that one was a robot revolution.

Yeah. I mean, definitely iRobot?

Right? [laughs]

You know, some of that stuff is a ways off, like crazy, humanoid robots, and companies like Boston Dynamics are incredible in working on some of those… But you know, for something at a price point that somebody’s gonna have, that’s affordable, it’s still a long ways off. And you know, something that was really challenging for us on that side was “Well, what does it do?”

[00:16:04.08] Yeah, I guess – let’s just isolate it to just Star Wars. If you’re just using R2-D2, or C-3PO or any of these – maybe not C-3PO, because that one’s more human-size… If you’re thinking just robot, then you’ve gotta think that’s personality, to some degree resourceful, I suppose… These robots play a pivotal role in even the success of winning or losing in these movies… So they have some very dynamic roles.

Most robots I think of, like your Roomba, for example… I don’t have one, because I’m scared of them, but… Literally, I don’t want the vacuum at my feet. I’m just kidding around, but… You know, you’ve got these robots in our lives today that aren’t very smart. And you’re trying to create something that’s a platform, that if you bring in developers to this platform - which we’re gonna talk about more of - you start to get these programmable things that can do very interesting things.

Right. And like you said, a lot of this stuff is really hard. Even getting a robot to follow you around your house is not a trivial task, from the engineering side. Just good voice recognition while the robot is moving, and making noises, and it’s motors, and it’s things like that. Fans…

Heat dissipation… Yeah, all these different things that really – I mean, that much sophistication in that small of a package, with closed parts, small parts even… That’s a lot of engineering.

Yup. So we went through a lot of really challenging times, trying to think of what this use case would be… Like, could it be a security bot? Yeah, probably it could patrol your house… But with all the technology, you need to have a good security bot; would people actually buy that?

We’re trying to go more towards home and office. We didn’t wanna be a specialized security bot. We really wanted to have something that could be more multi-purpose, So we didn’t go in the direction of some of the other security robotics companies Knightscope, Cobalt, some of those. Even also like Roomba - we didn’t wanna be a single-purposed robot like the Roomba.

So every week it was something different. We could be like the companion robot, the security robot, we could be the kids’ teaching robot, we could be just a programmable robot… But it always sort of broke down. Either the technology wouldn’t be good enough, the price point would be too high, the tech would be too expensive… It was like six months. It was terrible.

Then we came across this idea of being more of a platform, thinking back to how computers started, how really smartphones took off. It wasn’t Apple or Microsoft creating all the applications, it was people who were specialists in different spaces. So you could think about your phone - most of the apps on your phone aren’t written by Apple or Google; they’re written by third-parties who are experts in different productivity, or gaming, or messaging… So we decided to take that approach with our robot, provide a really kick-ass platform to developers who know different businesses, maybe like elder care, or teaching, and all these things… All our business isn’t in the educational robot for kids, because we probably wouldn’t have a big enough market to justify the cost of building that robot. We spent literally like 16 million dollars to build Misty. It takes a lot of money, because you need so many different engineers and disciplines.

So that could just be a part of the business… But we also have another customer that’s buying them in elder care, we have another customer that’s buying some units in security… And we could just support them with a common platform, so their costs are lower.

That makes sense, honestly… Because if you can’t as a company specialize, in the same way that Apple supports computers that are high-end computers, like an iMac Pro, for example, that someone might do extreme video editing on, or large-scale CAD operations, or 3D renderings, and things like that. Then you’ve got the MacBook Air, which is just focused on someone who needs a lightweight, decent computer to move around, and there are different disciplines of people.

[00:20:24.15] In the same way, you can think - well, rather than specializing in security, or certain areas, you can do all the smart things, which is what you do well, to build the necessary components to deal with all the problems like heat dissipation, or the different aspects of vision, or eyes, or natural language processing. You could do all those hard things and give them the building blocks, give that to the dreamers, and enable the dreamers.

Yeah, exactly. With Coronavirus now (Covid-19), I wish we had launched Misty six months earlier, because robots have a lot of use cases with what we’re going through now… From companionship, to telemedicine, telehealth, working with kids with special needs, autism, where you can’t have that face-to-face interaction. Robots, especially like Misty – so Misty is our robot platform; I’ll describe it. It’s about 14 inches tall; it’s a robot that’s on treads, but you don’t see the treads. We’ve put a lot of energy and a lot of learnings that we had from Disney into creating a character that’s very friendly.

She has a face, a head that can look around, a couple arms… They’re not articulated, there’s no hands with fingers, or anything… Simplified arms, so she can point at things. And then a suite of sensors, for voice interaction, for mapping mobility, so she can drive around, cameras so she can see things, recognize objects, a speaker system, she can dock wirelessly on a charger…

And we’re starting to see our hypothesis working, where we would have customers buying Misty, starting to work on skills in different spaces. The two big areas that we’re seeing were elder care, things like safety, companionship, and then customers in the education/therapy side. One of our pilot customers is out on the East Coast, called [unintelligible 00:22:31.11] They have basically a group of therapists that go to different homes, different organizations, schools, and they basically do therapies with kids, elderly, using robots, as well as a few other things.

So we’re just sort of seeing this machine working, and with Coronavirus now a lot of these organizations need things immediately, like personal protective equipment, stuff like that… And I wish our customers had that little bit more time to get their solutions ready… But it’s really exciting to see that people are actually building stuff for Misty, real solutions for people.

It’s an interesting time, honestly… I’ve been watching Misty since – mid-2018 y’all got in touch with us, and I think you were not quite at a point where it would make sense to have this kind of conversation, because you needed some… We might have been helpful to you to (I guess) get to market, or share a lot of what you’re doing with developers, but we saw it as an opportunity to wait and see what happens with you all. And it’s interesting now - we’re barely into 2020, and I think a lot of people just wanna scrap 2020 altogether…

Some people are even putting up Christmas lights to reenact the end of 2019 to go into a new year kind of thing, just to sort of forget, because that’s what we wanna do… It’s terrible. It really is terrible. And maybe you could speak to launching something so crucial, that you’ve worked so hard on, at a time where it’s very difficult to get any traction in the media, period, that isn’t related to solving the world’s problem right now.

[00:24:13.27] Yeah, it’s a little frustrating… Like I said, I wish we had shipped earlier, so that people would have had more time with Misty to develop solutions before the last month… But I think we’re trying to look at it as what sort of opportunities can we take from this. Right now, a lot of our customers are basically shut down, they’re working on different things, or just moving slower, so we’re trying to think about how we can utilize this time to pull our team and to get ahead on some stuff. So just work on backend technology features that people have needed, so that when we come out of this phase, whenever that is, whatever things look like when we come out of it, that Misty is in a much better spot, so people can start to think about “Holy crap, what did we just go through? How can robots be useful if this ever happened again?” or thinking about how things changed going forward… That if they’re looking for a robot, Misty is much more attractive at that point. Because we do have those features that people want.

Break

[00:25:29.02]

Let’s key into those specific things, because I think this idea of robots as a development platform is pretty interesting. As you’d mentioned, you were in the toyish space with Sphero, and you wanted to create “real robots” (in your own words) that were highly functional. That takes a marriage of several things. We barely scratched the surface on your background. I’m gonna read something that you’ve put in your LinkedIn, because I think it’s pretty cool, just to boast about you, and let you boast afterwards if you like… In your LinkedIn you said “I wouldn’t say that I’m the best at any one thing. My strength is that I’m dangerous in many things, whether it’s designing machines in CAD, designing a circuit laying out the PCB (I have no idea what a PCB is), programming the embedded firmware, backend, web development, frontend graphic design, UI, UX… I do it all. The more challenging the problem, the better.”

I mean, hey, Ian, we’re at a really challenging state right now; the challenging problem is obviously getting past many things that’s happening in our world right now, but… I think robots as a development platform is super-interesting. We see it happening when it comes to voice, and you mentioned Alexa and Siri and others… The next platform is a robot that moves, that has all these capabilities, too. You’ve got a moving camera, you’ve got moving sensors… A lot of interesting things here. What’s the next step?

Yeah, the next step is – I mean, a lot of it is just sort of exposing a lot of these pieces, more pieces to developers. Right now we’re sort of at the early stages in mapping and navigation. For a robot to do that is really hard. And of course, you’ve seen news about autonomous vehicles, and cars, and stuff that can map and navigate, but the sensors that they use on these cars and the compute power is tens and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of technology. That doesn’t work for a device that an average person is gonna buy.

What’s the price point we’re talking about here? Those ranges - you’ve got like a couple different levels to it?

Yeah, so we have three different versions. We have a basic version that doesn’t have the mapping and navigation; that starts at $2,000. Then we go up to $3,299 for the high-end version. They can map basically up to about a 2,000 sqft. space. It’s still pretty crude… So we’re working on basically making the mapping and navigation better, so it doesn’t get stuck, or it can map and navigate in a more complex environment, or it can map for a longer period of time. So if you map a space and the robot goes to the other end of your space, and then you move a bunch of stuff around, like maybe your kids brought a bunch of toys out, or a bunch of chairs moved around, and when it goes back, your environment is now changed, the map is changed - how does it know where it is in that space, now that things have moved? So we’re working on different pieces like that to make it more robust.

That’s interesting, to think how it has to investigate, “Oh, it’s still the same room. New devices, new things, new objects in the room.” Give me a peek - does it go over to the things and investigate how it can get around it to remap the room? Does it try to do that constantly, or is there maybe some flexibility? Almost like a - it’s a terrible robot, honestly, but interesting in its simplicity - Interstellar, when they would say “TARS, what’s your humor setting?” “90%.” “Let’s take it down to 75%”. Maybe you could take the sensitivity of the environment remapping down to 70%, because you’ve got active children or active people in your room, or whatever.

[00:31:56.12] Right. It has to be enough of a match that it can sort of figure out where it is. And there’s things like loop closure, which is also important… Looking to my right - I’m in my living room kitchen - there’s a big island, where the sink is, a big counter, and the couch up against it. If the robot drives around that, it needs to then sort of match up where it was originally, or if it went around the perimeter of a room where it can’t see the middle of it - how does it know that it’s back to where it started? If you’re drawing a map of a space, as you’re walking around, your lines probably aren’t gonna match up correctly.

So it has to sort of rejigger the whole map in a way that works. It’s just really complicated.

It’s hard to program. It seems as a human so easy…

…to me, as a human, because that’s my perspective - I can know what I know because of what I know… Whereas with a robot, or something like this that’s doing it autonomously, there’s no human behind the scenes constantly giving it feedback, saying “You’re correct, you’re correct.” It’s literally itself saying it’s correct.

Yeah. Even as a human though, if you’re in a bigger environment, it can get complicated.

Oh, that’s true.

If you’re mapping a map where like – I was just thinking back to when I was a kid and I played Mist… I don’t know if you ever played that game.

I didn’t play Mist, no.

Or like Riven… Basically, there was all these areas, there were these sections – I think it was like a submarine, and you were going through some underground tunnels, and it was like – it’s a puzzle game. So we ended up – my friend and I drew these massive maps, and you’re trying to figure out where you are, and if you’re back at the same spot… And it’s kind of like that.

Yeah. I even think about a big building that you might go in. How often do you go into somebody’s home and be like “Oh, there’s more over there.” You just see a hallway, it doesn’t seem very deep or investigatable; it just seems like “Oh, it’s just a door.” Well, that’s literally a door to a whole new wing of the home, and you don’t have the physical mapping mentality to know that, because you haven’t walked the space. There’s more behind a door, behind a wall, that you didn’t even really consider. You’re like “Whoa!” Mentally mapping something.

I can see how on one side I could say it’s easier, but then on the other side it’s definitely - you can get lost in a big building. How often do you go into a gigantic museum for a tour, or something like that, and you’re like “I have no idea where I’m at”? You have no idea where you’re at.

Right. Totally.

You don’t have a topology map to look at it. Nothing that says “I’ve been here before.” You rely upon those big maps to say “You are here.” Hopefully it’s correct.

Oh yeah, I’ve totally done that. Other features that we’re putting in – we didn’t have streaming video and audio, bidirectional, so you could [unintelligible 00:34:50.23] with Misty… So we’re getting people that are interested in that, especially now, when again, therapists aren’t able to go into a family’s home and work with their kids…

Yeah. Colors, facial – I saw the face on Misty II. I could see how in telehealth, or especially teletherapy, where – I don’t know… I mean, would you choose a robot in this case, with vision, or would you choose a computer with Zoom?

I think a lot of cases a computer with Zoom or a tablet or whatever is plenty… But for certain things, especially elderly, especially kids with special needs, the personality of Misty actually adds a lot. Being able to convey personality through Misty’s eyes and expressions and being this real, tangible thing in your space does add a lot. We had a lot of that with Sphero in the early days, as well. They’re like “Why can’t I just play a game on my tablet? Why do I need this physical ball rolling around?” But when you have something in your actual environment and you have – even though it seems irrelevant, whatever the smell is of this space, to other ambient sounds and other things that are going around in your environment, to the tactile of you moving the joystick, to seeing this physical thing run into things in your environment… It creates a much more rich learning experience.

[00:36:29.27] There’s a local school in Denver that has a – they call them the Kinder Coders. Like, literally, kindergarteners coding Sphero visually. But part of their lessons where they’re not doing coding, but they have this big mat on the floor with the days of the week… And a lesson would be “Using the joystick on the device, drive Sphero on the day that it is tomorrow”, for instance. And the kid just doing that with a physical device, rather than just like tapping on a button on a screen reinforces their learning a lot… And I don’t know how to quantify “a lot”, but it does.

Yeah. Well, now I can see that, because with just one button push, when there’s an experience that happens when you travel to space… It may not be a one-to-one, but I think about directional. If I’m driving and I go from here to there, and I’ve never gone from here to there, wherever that is, point A to point B before - well, I’ve got the mental map and experience because my attention, my awareness was focused on getting there… Whereas if I’m the passenger, taking the same trip, less likely, because my awareness wasn’t there.

So in this case where you have them actually mapping a physical object from one place to another, it’s akin to that same experience, where your awareness is attached to it. Something is deeper in the learning, not just simply pushing a button. It’s something very – all I can say is your awareness and your attention is sort of focused on this true experience.

Whether it was you or not. It’s an extension of you. It’s a proxy even, of you, if you’re controlling the robot with a joystick, for example.

Yup. There’s a lot of research talking about socially-assisted robots (they call them) in this space of special needs kids, for diagnosing and doing interventions with kids with autism. There’s also a lot of research starting now on robots in the healthcare space, again, with elderly… And having that personality helps a lot, working with (say) elderly people with early onset of dementia.

Using robots to supplement healthcare workers, because we’re starting to see shortages of workers in that space; it’s only gonna get worse with aging populations in certain countries. Robots can take care of things just like a concierge, answering certain questions for people. Or if it is a person maybe with mild dementia, asking the same questions over and over; that can be hard for a healthcare worker to answer the same question 50 time. But a robot doesn’t care.

Yeah. There’s no emotion. I mean, there’s programmed emotion; that could be debatable, I suppose. But there’s technically no emotion attached to the repetition. As a human, we get impatient. As a robot, maybe you can program patients into it, or program inpatients into it, potentially… So it’s all about outcomes. But I can imagine that there’s obviously less emotion involved in the repetition, whereas a human gets frustrated; a robot is like “Oh, no problem. Here’s the answer. No problem, here’s the answer. No problem, here’s the answer.” They no issues with repeating themselves a thousand times, whereas you and me are like “I’m done with answering that, okay? I’m moving on.”

[00:40:00.01] Yup. It was kind of interesting, you read that quote off my LinkedIn profile. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently… I definitely wouldn’t say I’m a specialist in any one thing, but I’m dangerous in a lot of things. I’m pretty good at a huge range, like – I don’t know, a monthly goal [unintelligible 00:40:17.12] for a project, and then right now I’m helping rebuild some of our website. So just all over the place - Photoshop, graphic design… I’ve been using Photoshop since version 2.5… But as you scale a startup, people become more and more specialized. And where do those people fit that are good at a lot of things, but not really specialists at any one thing? I’ve had people like that on my teams, and those people are your rockstars; those people make your company when you’re a small startup. But a lot of those people struggle when your company gets beyond a certain size.

Either they start to step on people’s toes, because they like to do too many things, and they’re stepping on the toes of the specialists that are the pros in whatever it is they’re doing…And a lot of times the people who are good at a lot of things are actually better at those things too, but people don’t perceive them like that. Or there’s just not – you don’t have as big a need for somebody that can do a lot of different stuff, unless maybe you’re in R&D, or some spaces… So I’ve been thinking about that a lot on my side, “How do I scale with a company? Is it even possible?” Or am I like the first two years of a startup guy? Like, I’m doing that, and then do another startup. It’s interesting.

Right now I’m trying to help a lot of our team with different tasks that do need somebody to jump in… We didn’t have a web person on our team, and we needed to launch our three skews and do some updates to our website… I’m like “Alright, I can do that. [unintelligible 00:42:16.26] a design company for four years.” Or as we’re starting to think about prototyping some different things with misty - like, “Yeah, I can do that.” Kind of jumping around. But it’s kind of challenging.

A lot of roles – it’s like, you’re the marketing person, or you’re the salesperson… It’s pretty clear what you need to do and what your goals are.

So what is it that you do day to day then? Are you a roamer? Let’s break down your role at a higher-level. You’re a co-founder, right?

So this is in many ways – you’re an idea person. You were there from the inception. So in many cases you’re there to get things moving, and may not necessarily need to be involved as they get moving. You’re a mover and a shaker, not so much a doer on the long-term. You seem to jump around, based on what you’ve just said there.

So what do you do day-to-day? What are some of the things – maybe that’s not even worth going into, I don’t know. I’m curious why this is a challenge for you, I suppose. Are you struggling with this? Is this an identity crisis, to some degree?

Maybe…

Not so much a crisis, that’s overly dramatic… But you get what I’m trying to say… Where you question yourself. I’ve done this myself, “How can I be most useful right now?”

Yeah, exactly. That’s where I’m at.

My day-to-day - some of it is working with our leadership team, trying to decide what our direction is, what are we gonna focus on… I would say that’s pretty consistent. But other than that – you know, there’s chunks of time. Like I said, right now I’m working on a website, but maybe before that I was working on our Arduino Backpack that we have for Misty, laying out circuit boards, and helping write some documentation and stuff for that.

[00:44:13.14] I deal a lot of manufacturing. I spent about three years in my life in China, working with our factory there, where I can be pretty effective, because I can make decisions on the product, I can do enough of all aspects of the engineering side, on the electrical side, on the mechanical side, QA testing, test fixtures, whatever… It is kind of interesting. It’s not easy. You’re not the salesperson, and like “What do you need to do? You need to make more sales.”

Right. It’s not an easy, like “This is what you do. This is what you do”, yeah.

Yeah. And there’s a really good article, I’m sure you’ve read it… I forget the exact title is, but it’s basically like “Giving away your Legos.” It’s part of the first round blog.

Hm. I haven’t read this one. I’m gonna look it up though.

It’s really good, and it kind of talks about how as you’re scaling, a lot of times you sort of get attached to something, and every certain period of time you need to give away your Legos. Basically, give away your tower that you’ve been building to somebody else, and start building a new, bigger tower. And it can be challenging to give away your baby, whatever your Lego tower is that you’ve built, and start something new. I feel like I have to do that pretty often, and that’s challenging.

Yeah. Well, the cool thing is if you build the right kind of company, you can do that again and again and again, inside the same company. It’s not a good thing when you have to start a new thing, literally a new thing. It’s different when you can do it within the company.

I’ll say two things. One, if I was on your team and I was somebody who can give you direction, so let’s say like a peer - not so much somebody over you, obviously - I would find ways to use your dangerousness in wise ways for the direction of the company… Because I think someone like you is multi-faceted; you need to keep being pointed at different gigantic, hard problems, and solving them, again and again and again. So it makes sense to point you in different directions, that’s what I would do.

Let me ask you a second question to that, which is - have you heard of read the book Linchpin, from Seth Godin?

Okay. I’ll summarize it by saying that Seth in that book essentially says – the point of the book is to make you feel like and understand what it should be to be a linchpin. Do you know what a linchpin is? Physically, not the metaphor linchpin. The literal linchpin. A linchpin is the thing that holds the wheel on the hub. So if the wheel is not on the hub, it’s not a wheel anymore, it’s just – it’s off. The linchpin holds the hub together. So if a linchpin wasn’t there, the linchpin – it’s gotta be that. It’s the most important thing.

It sounds to me like you enjoy being a cog. And it’s this new thing of – I wouldn’t say “new”, it’s just sort of an evolving idea, I suppose, to have this cog mindset. And what I call cog mindset is – this is a quote from me… I’m very sharp, I’m a very highly-specific, very purposeful – purseposefully purposeful cog that’s part of a much bigger, much more grand machine. I play a very specific, highly needed part, so that others can do the same. I serve the unit, the team, and its mission, not myself. That to me sounds like you…

I like that.

…where you don’t need to be the person that is the most important factor. You build a Lego, hand it off; build a Lego, hand it off.

Yeah. I think that’s spot on. And luckily, I have a really awesome team at Misty. In our last leadership [unintelligible 00:48:05.24] we talked about this as well, and everybody is super-supportive… Being open to letting me engage at different levels, and work with them to make things happen… Which is cool.

[00:48:20.07] Yeah. You’ve got a big mission. A part of your mission is 1) be a platform, which is interesting; that was discovered – I don’t know how long ago you said. I think it was about a year ago or six months ago, you discovered [the need] to be a platform. You can correct me on the time range there… But then to have this mission of making real robots, and putting them in every business, every home, every school… I mean, that’s a grand mission, that – it’s not like a two-year mission.

It’s like a decade, at least, right?

Would you agree with that?

Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s gonna take a long time.

How do you do that? How do you mentally prepare for that kind of mission?

I guess personally you just can’t think too big. You’ve just gotta think one step at a time. And it’s easy to think even too big, as in like things that don’t even seem that big. But it’s literally like “We need one customer building something. Let’s get one. And then let’s get two. And then three.”

So I think if you think about it in just super, super-simplistic steps, it kind of becomes manageable… But you’ve gotta always have that North Star in the back of your mind, like “Where are we going with these steps?”, making sure those step one, step two, step three are going in some sort of direction that you think is big.

Yeah. Have you seen Frozen 2, by any chance?

It’s been a while, but yes.

It’s on-topic, but off-topic. Frozen 2?

Frozen 2 is new.

Yeah, then I haven’t seen it.

Well, unless you saw it in a theater. The reason why I bring it up is – it’s kind of funny, because we have kids, so we obviously have to see Frozen 2… Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be like “Oh, I’ve gotta see Frozen 2.” And you’d mentioned the next thing, and there’s a song in there that’s really cool for kids to hear. The song is titled “The next right thing.” The character is going through this – I don’t wanna repeat the story of the movie, but the point is “The next right thing” is the next right thing to do, and it kind of reminds me of what you’re talking about here. It’s like, you may have a trajectory of an overarching idea of where you’re trying to go, some sort of North Star, but the next right thing is what you’ve gotta do.

A couple, like, Disney things I was thinking about… Bob Iger, when we got to spend a little bit of time with him in 2014 when we were at Disney - he gave us this antidote that was like “Don’t create trombone oil.” You could be the best trombone oil manufacturer in the world, providing everybody with trombones, and you’d produce like [unintelligible 00:51:05.19] a year. You wanna think big. And then – it’s kind of a fun story on Frozen. For some reason, when you said Frozen 2, I was thinking Ice Age… [laughs]

Pretty close.

So we hadn’t even released BB-8 yet. This was back in 2015. But I think we’d announced something… I’m trying to remember. But somehow, some guy at Disney reached out to me, just cold-email, and he’s like “I heard you were working on BB-8. Can we talk?” So I talked to this guy, and it turns out he was on the Disney Parks side, working on something… And he was like “Okay, can you make a full-size BB-8? If you can do that, can you make me a rock?” I was like, “Why do you need a rock?” We’d actually been working on our own full-size BB-8, so I was like “Well, if your rock is 20 inches in diameter, I can make it.” He’s like “Alright.”

[00:52:11.07] So it turns out he was working on the Frozen theater show at Disneyland in L.A (or Anaheim). I basically took all the stuff that I had created this BB-8 with and created this rock… And it turned out to be the trolls.

Hm. Yeah.

So I got invited out, and he showed me backstage, and I got to see the actual show, and they were using it halfway through… It’s like, the curtain closes, this rock rolls out on stage and does this dance to some music, and then rolls off, and then the curtains open and all the trolls come out.

So he just used some of our BB-8 technology in a Frozen show at Disneyland.

It was kind of cool.

That is pretty cool. That is pretty cool. Those trolls - the rock trolls are pretty interesting. And it’s interesting how you’ve had so many opportunities to work with - at least two, I suppose, that I know of - to work with Disney. It’s interesting.

I was even watching something recently with Walt Disney, the early days of the animatronics there, and stuff like that… And it’s just some really cool stuff they’ve done, way back when they first invented theme parks… And specifically Disney theme parks. Characters that moved, and seemed real, and so much cool stuff behind the scenes there.

Yeah. And their teams are amazing in imagineering. The robotics that they do there is pretty incredible now.

What’s interesting though is – I guess to bring it back to Misty… As I can see it, it’s an interesting thing to try to empower developers with a real robot, to make it compartmentible, to make it componentable, to give it access to APIs and access to all these different things… And to have this kind of trajectory, this long decade-worth (or maybe more) of need… You’re like maybe three years into your ten-year stretch, maybe? Is that right?

2017 was the founding of Misty robotics…?

Yeah, although we just started shipping in September of 2019.

Right. Because you had a Kickstarter, or something like that. Didn’t you have a Kickstarter?

We did our own crowdfund, but yeah – we did a crowdfunding in the middle of 2018. So it took a little bit to get the robot out the door as far as manufacturing… But I would say that our ten-year plan that we wrote about a few years ago – I don’t know, I’d say we’re still… I would say really shipping was more at the beginning of that, so we’re still ten years out from just what we’ve hypothesized the next ten years to look like. And it is actually, in my mind, happening a little bit different than I had envisioned. I thought the first 2-3 years would be more like hobbyists, playing with Misty… And just experimenting, trying different things…

You know, some things going to be potential real applications, but more on the experimentation side, and what we were finding is almost immediately we were starting to get contacted by real companies - big companies, small companies, entrepreneurs wanting to really dive in and create a meaningful solution immediately. Like, immediately sit down and come up with a timeline of how they work with us to develop their skill, and pilot it with people, and then deploy it.

[00:56:10.04] I didn’t think that would happen for maybe at least like a year, or something… More experimentation period, versus diving right into a real solution, which is – you know, on our side, we had envisioned Misty as being this sort of experimentation/development platform where when you’re experimenting, some of the features don’t need to be as robust.

Yeah. Good enough.

If somebody is already building a solution that’s deploying out to kids with autism, or elderly people, it has to work… And even though our direct customer is the developer, their customers are a real consumer, and especially groups that might be even more challenging, and the technology needs to work better. So we had to shift our strategy pretty quick… Which is a good thing. I mean, it’s awesome that people are already doing it. That’s a really good thing. It was just surprising.

Yeah. It just makes me think how difficult it must be to have this mindset of iteration, with that kind of long-term vision, and let’s say to some degree accurate hypotheses today, that tomorrow may be somewhat accurate, and need to iterate. I don’t know how you iterate – I mean, I know how you iterate; I don’t know what the methodology is of iterating, but in specific to this, how do you command such a platform and then also iterate as the company itself? Because you’re the provider of the platform. You’re the tooling that makes the tools.

Yeah. It is super-challenging.

How do you focus your time? How do you focus understanding what is important today? I ask that generally, but then seriously, how do you do that? What do you listen to? What are the metrics, what are the indicators to say “This is what’s important.” Especially considering Coronavirus and the slowdown of the world, how do you figure out what’s important?

Yeah, that was a crazy curveball to – it was already challenging trying to figure that out, and then Coronavirus came along… You know, I would say we’re still trying to figure it out. We have a very finite team, and finite resources, so we literally put our energy where – we’re trying to focus on (let’s say) providing enough tools that the majority of our customers can help themselves… So like connecting customers with other customers through our forums, really good documentation so you don’t have to contact us, you can just find what you need online… And then on the other side, trying to decide what may be a vertical that we think could be big, and providing extra energy and support into that field.

So the two we’re looking at again - and a lot of this is coming from our customers - is that children’s therapy space and elder care. But even those are pretty broad… Like “Well, what in elder care?” Is it the companion robot that just has a lot of personality and it’s there, and can help with loneliness, and connecting maybe through telepresence, connecting family members to an elderly person, again, around companionship… To safety, like using the cameras and computer vision to detect if somebody fell down; or if they hear somebody screaming, the robot can go over and ask if they’re okay, or take a picture and send it to a healthcare person, and family members or whatever, to more of the concierge, just sort of answering questions, like what activities are happening at our facility this week.

And all those different use cases - there’s some overlap in the technology, but there’s also a lot of different technologies that we would need for each one of those different use cases, so where do we focus our energy? And yeah, we’re still trying to figure that out, especially now.

You know, hearing that though makes me think if I were in your position – I try to generally empathize, because I’m similar to you; I’m not quite as dangerous, but I do have a lot of facets… And I think the one area where I would explore, or at least consider, is becoming my own customer.

So while you are a platform, you’re also very future-focused. Why not spin off another company that’s focused on one of these larger verticals and specialize, as well as be the platform? So where it’s not Misty Robotics being a customer directly, maybe it’s a separate company, but the idea is if there’s an area where you see – because what you need is somebody highly invested, that can prove usage; not just platform, but usage of a platform. Because a computer is just parts, until you put it together and it does something magical, right? Until you put the hardware with the software, with the person, with the skills and the ambition - only then, when you have the recipe, does something become magical. Until then, it’s just a platform, right?

If you can become understanding of a vertical that makes a lot of sense, and can become that best customer, well then you’re your own champion and you can use yourself as an example to other customers (would-be customers) to use your platform. That’s just an idea I would consider.

That’s spot on, for sure. It’s something similar to what I do… One of my tools is I’ll – I basically just have to think about something else, like not work.

Mm-hm. Take a shower, go for a run. Well, you live in Boulder; do you mountain-bike? Do you do anything fun outside? Get outside, take a hike.

Yeah, exactly. I snowboard…

There you go.

You know, get out and just completely forget that I work at Misty… And blank all that out. I create another persona for myself in my head, and then I do whatever it is, like play with Sphero, interact with Misty, or whatever I’m trying to test… And just sort of really think about how I feel, and notice those feelings to see if it’s a good solution or not. That’s maybe kind of like what you’re suggesting. Obviously, if the product/solution doesn’t work for me, it’s not gonna work for somebody else… Or at least that’s the way I look at it.

Well, especially because you’re such a dynamic enabler. What rings true to me as a good [unintelligible 01:02:50.21] to have in a repertoire, which is this dangerousness of you. You say “My strength is that I’m dangerous in many things”, and I see that as a – you know, that’s a negative word, but it’s a very positive effect, because “dangerous”, you mean that in the way that you can do a lot of interesting things that are innovative, and in many ways breakthrough. When someone else generally can be hit with brick walls and not get over them, you seem to be somebody who has many skills, and somebody who perseveres.

Resilience is a big thing, especially in this time… Resilience is probably gonna be one of the hidden skillsets of any individual, as well as any company. How do you get through this kind of – I mean, no one expected this kind of thing… Speaking to Coronavirus, or just the way the world is right now, and the bounce-back. I’m sure we’ll eventually bounce back, but we’ll definitely be changed. It’s like a scar; we’ll have a scar as a species, as humankind… And how do you persevere and be resilient through this kind of time? That’s the test right there.

[01:03:57.29] Yeah. I mean, it’s so easy to get wrapped up… And it kind of reminds me of Bitcoin. Bitcoin was going crazy; you’d just check the price of Bitcoin every five minutes… It’s kind of like that now. It’s hard to not let yourself every five minutes go on and see what the latest predictions is. “When is it gonna end? How many cases are there in Colorado, and in the U.S. versus other countries?” It’s so easy to get sucked into that.

That’s a trap though too, right?

Oh, yeah.

Because while that may be true, we all still have our responsibility. What you’re doing is amazing, and Coronavirus aside, it doesn’t change that.

Exactly.

It slows it down, is all it does. It may delay certain things, but the usefulness of what you’ve personally built, and your team and company has built is still just as useful. And what I’m speaking isn’t to say you’re right or wrong, it’s just – it’s this lie we all begin to believe, that just chisels away and says “You’re not useful. This thing matters more, and checking where it’s at matters more.” That’s true, it does matter, but the lie is that we’re not useful anymore… And we are.

Right. So it’s like, how do we not let whatever things are going on consume us? I’m just trying to focus on our work.

The next right thing.

How do we build a bunch of cool features for Misty, so that when we come out of this Misty is in a really good spot for developers who wanna come in, or companies that wanna come in? I think that’s what we have to do.

Let’s maybe key in on that then, because we’ve got a highly active audience, who primarily – a large portion are developers; the primary audience for our podcast network at large, our Changelog brand is developers. So if you were speaking to a large set of developers, what would you say to get them excited about Misty Robotics and what you’re doing there?

Well, Misty is a great platform. We’ve talked about a lot of the capabilities. I’d love for people to start thinking about how robots can be used, both today [unintelligible 01:06:07.08] literally today… And coming out of Coronavirus, how is the world gonna change? In what ways are they gonna change, and can robots be useful? If you’re a developer and you wanna actually create a skill - awesome. Super-awesome. We’d love to support you in any way. If you just have ideas, if you’re not a developer, or you have a developer but you’re busy working on other stuff, please reach out.

You’re probably an expert in something that I’m not. You may know way more about some other use case for Misty that I’ve never even thought about. So sharing those ideas with us would be super-useful. We have forums; reach out. It’s ian [at] mistyrobotics.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I think it’s super-exciting times; not because of the Coronavirus, but just technology and robotics.

Yeah… That’s what I mean. It’s still exciting times. This [unintelligible 01:07:08.00] doesn’t change the excitement that we have in our state of innovation. We’re doing some really interesting things as a human race when it comes to our internet… And I believe it’s now turned 20 years old, so it’s an interesting time for us as a connected human race… And it’s just interesting.

Yeah, I mean, a kid anywhere can start working with a Sphero, or Misty… Start creating a skill and create a solution for a really important problem. There’s people right now for personal protective equipment, like using their 3D printers at home to build facemasks…

Yeah. Crazy.

…using transparency films… It’s pretty cool how people can come together and innovate and share ideas and come up with solutions quickly.

[01:08:05.22] I’m curious what your stock is on Misty Robots. Do you have a ton that can be deployed? Do you have any interesting programs where you’re finding useful ways or interesting ways to economically get them into people’s hands, that weren’t there before? I say “before” meaning three weeks ago. Any fun things happening on that front to sort of enable people, I suppose, with a real thing?

Yeah… I mean, luckily, we’d built up a stock before Chinese New Year, which then extended into Covid-19… Yeah, so we do have a stock; we have a pool of loaner units we can get out to people, we have different channels to exchange ideas through our forums, we have these Uplinks that we do, like interactive webinars to interact with people, share ideas. We have our developers on there, so they can answer engineering questions as well… But yeah, a lot of people in certain areas are just totally locked down, just trying to think about “How do I get to tomorrow, at the moment…?”

Yeah. Well, I think of it like the fact that if you’ve got – I didn’t know you had a loaner pool available, or just some sort of creative way to get these into people’s hands, maybe without the large-scale investment, or maybe something; “Let me give you my driver’s license”, whatever it is. Sign-and-drive kind of thing when it comes to Volkswagen, or whatever… I’m thinking like people have time on their hands, and potentially even a little bit of boredom. How do you leverage that? Because what you need is ideas, and what you need is more people to buy into this platform as an idea, right? So the best way to do that is to get them into people’s hands, and capitalize on the time and potentially boredom.

Yeah, definitely people listening - go to our website and check it out. We have a bunch of videos… We can’t talk about all the stuff that people are working on, because some of it is – they’re trying to make money off it at some point… But just kind of check out some of the things that people are working on, look at the capabilities of Misty.

Obviously, the more people that are actually creating for Misty, the better. We’d love to have a developer buy one, start playing around with it… Or if you’re not in a position to buy one, we do have some units that can go out as loaner units, so you can start experimenting with your idea, testing it out…

It’s definitely a time when you have a lot of time doing different things maybe than you were doing before. I know I am. It’s kind of weird - before the show, like I was saying, I’ve talked to people over text, and my team over Slack, and stuff, but… I haven’t talked to somebody in like three days… [laughs] It’s weird.

Well, I’m glad to be here for you, Ian. I’m glad to be here for you, you know? It’s what I’m here for.

[laughs] Yeah, I appreciate it… I appreciate it.

I really enjoy doing this show, because I think it’s a unique time to have this kind of conversation. If we had had this conversation a couple months ago, we would have obviously not mentioned Coronavirus or things happening now… But I think it’s just interesting having these conversations with founders and big innovators like you, because you dream; you dream big, and you go big. You start a company with a ten-year plan, not a “Will we even survive?” plan. And maybe that’s the case, who knows… But the point is that we need people like you out there that are willing to invest in the future, be dangerous in many ways, be resilient in many ways, but then also have this compassion for the world to create something useful.

Coming from Sphero not that it wasn’t important - toys, very educational, but moving to a useful space where you can provide utility for people that would not otherwise have utility when a human can’t be there for them, for whatever reason; whenever a robot makes more sense. And I commend you for that. That’s a big deal, to be in that position… So I wanna give you an opportunity to be resilient in these next several months, the next year, or whatever… I know things will be great for you.

[01:12:22.13] I appreciate it.

And thank you so much for sharing your story here on Founders Talk, it’s been great talking to you. Is there anything maybe on the horizon that not many people know about? Something coming out soon, that you can mention here on the end of the show?

A lot of exciting stuff coming up. A lot of what we’re working on right now is “How do we connect people better together?” How do we get the people who have ideas?

I’m gonna use an example without a name - a person on the East Coast that came to us early on, who was disabled, and she was like “Oh my God, Misty could help me in these exact ways. Here’s how Misty could help me.” And I related; I tore my ACL a little over a year ago, and for a few weeks I was disabled. Getting a glass of water and getting it to the couch was so hard, because I had to crutches; like, how do you carry a glass of water? So it was like this crazy procedure that I worked out to get a glass of water to the couch.

If I could just put it in Misty’s hands and have Misty follow me with a glass of water to the couch, that would have been amazing. And that was only like a couple-week period where I was on crutches. People live like that. That would be huge for them, something so simple. So how do we connect the people with ideas to the developers? There’s a huge group of developers who are like “I could do anything with Misty, but what do I build?”

“What do I do?”, yeah.

I don’t know. What’s my first project? I don’t have a goal, really. I have to come up with a goal; that’s like the hardest part. Once you know what you’re gonna build, you’re like an engineer. That’s the easy part; we figure that stuff out. So how do we connect the people with ideas and real problems with developers that don’t have the ideas, that are looking for an idea, that can actually build them? Because there’s the software engineers, or whatever.

And what’s the first step for those people? How do they help you on the idea side, and then help you and be there, available to sort of tackle some of these problems that unique people out there are able to surface for a robot like Misty?

That’s what we’re working through right now - how do we connect these two groups of people directly? We don’t need to be the middle person. So everything from a Cragistlist posting ideas, with like “I’m a developer. Give me an idea” to maybe something more formal… So I would say that’s the next piece on the horizon coming from us - a good way of connecting these two groups of people.

Yeah. Well, when you get there, let us know, because we’d love to share that with our community, to give them that opportunity… Because there’s a lot of people out there who are in a unique spot where they do have some boredom, potentially even lots of time… I know me as a parent - it’s impossible to have time. I envy those, in some ways, that don’t have kids in this kind of scenario, because man, I would be catching up on some sleep, I would be organizing… It’s impossible as a parent. So there’s some people out there who have just tons of time, and they need to have captured boredom… You know, “Take my boredom and use it for the good of this world, somehow, someway…” And then there’s definitely some places where a robot as a platform makes a ton of sense in our future.

Yeah. Let’s create this future together.

Let’s do it. Ian, thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing your time with us. We really appreciate it, thank you.

Yeah, it was fun.

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