Programming Robots at DevWeek NYC

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” — Marcel Proust

We had the great pleasure of sponsoring New York Developer Week this year, not only the event but also the Hackathon, which was the largest Misty has participated at to date. Why do we do Hackathons? We believe in the power of perspective. When we see developers encounter a programmable personal robot for the first time, we find out firsthand what features and capabilities are important to them and, we hope, you.

The crowd prepares to hear the winners of the New York Developer Week Hackathon challenges.

For the Hackathon, our challenge was open-ended, as we wanted people to feel free to be really creative with their first chance to interact with a sensor-rich robot. This event was also our opportunity to road-test Misty’s new onboard SDK. Up to now, all skill development for Misty has been via her APIs. While the Misty API is excellent for rapid prototyping, it leaves the robot tethered to a computer for what to do next. The still-in-development SDK instead allows code to run locally on Misty, which is what we see as the future: guided autonomous action.

Diving into the Misty SDK.

Elder care and aid for those with disabilities were highlighted by several skills we saw being created for Misty. One team considered using Misty as an option for those who are visually impaired, as a way to navigate indoor spaces or to guide them to specific places. Another group used Misty’s facial detection and recognition abilities to help those with dementia recognize family members.

The most creative use of facial recognition came from the team who put a picture at the bottom of their dog’s bowl. Why? Well, it’s an elegant way to know when your furry friend needs to be fed. When Misty recognizes the photo of Jonah Hill at the bottom of the bowl, you know it’s kibble time.

This is what debugging looks like. Scrunched faces and chin scratches.

Taking a step back from the activity at the Hackathon, over the 2 days we spent in Brooklyn we did a lot of talking. This year’s event had over 3,000 participants, nearly all of whom stopped by to talk about robots at some point. As it turns out, people are extremely interested in robotics, especially when you’re the only robot at an event! We had incredible conversations, ranging from the standard “what can it do” to “how can I use Misty to help teach people about Machine Learning?” (Expect more on these soon!)

As the event came to a close, there was tight competition for the grand prize of a Misty II robot. All of the teams who worked with our Misty I had awesome demonstrations, but in the end it had to come down to one team: ALLCAPS 5. Their goal was to help those with dementia safely interact with visitors by having Misty recognize pre-defined family and friends, so that only they would be allowed into the home.

Congratulations to Andrew, Wendy, Shivani, Shijit, and Alex!

Their skill consisted of a training application (encrypted with a Yubico Security Key) that only permitted known family members to add people to a list of safe contacts. Furthermore, when it recognized a safe contact, the skill played a sound specific to the recognized individual. So, for example, when Misty recognizes a person with dementia’s son, Misty can play a sound for the son that is specific to them, different from what would be played for the spouse or daughter or caregiver.

A huge congratulations and thanks to everyone that participated in our NY Developer Week challenge. We’re looking forward to keeping in touch, and we encourage everyone to keep hacking!

Great Job from Misty Robotics (and SDK engineer Brad)!

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