Boulder-based BB-8 maker Sphero splits into two companies, pursuing its goal to put “a robot in every home”

The Boulder team behind the little toy robot that could is not so little anymore. Sphero has blossomed into arguably the largest brand in toy robots, thanks to fans and investors that include the Walt Disney Co. And now, Sphero plans to announce Tuesday that it’s splitting into two.

Misty Robotics, led by former Revolv CEO Tim Enwall, will focus on getting a robot — not toy robots — inside every home and office. Enwall is joined by Sphero co-founder Ian Bernstein and five other Sphero employees. The bulk of Sphero’s employees — 166 total who are mostly in Boulder — will continue to make snazzy connected toys that blink, talk back and do all sorts of tricks that could get children interested in programming computers.

“The Sphero board reached out to me several months ago and said, ‘Hey, we’ve been working on this advanced robot in our research lab for the last 18 months. But we’re so focused on connected play and this is not a connected toy,’ ” said Enwall, who joined three months ago. “I talked to Ian and really fell in love with his vision. This is the opportunity to deliver a robot to every home.”

Misty’s progress is well underway with Bernstein in China this week talking to the manufacturer. The company moves into new offices at 2540 Frontier Ave. in Boulder in July, and Enwall believes Misty’s first robot will be out in 2018. The company also gets kick-started with an $11.5 million investment led by venture capital firms Venrock and Foundry Group. The money will be used to ramp up the small team to about 30 people and get the first products to market.

Spider-Man is the latest connected toy from Boulder's Sphero. Spidey is mostly stationary but interacts vocally with children through speech recognition and motion sensors. Sphero launched Spider Man

Sphero

Spider-Man is the latest connected toy from Boulder’s Sphero. Spidey is mostly stationary but interacts vocally with children through speech recognition and motion sensors. Sphero launched Spider Man

Home robots are coming, but Bernstein’s vision is all about how to make that happen, Enwall said.

“They have to be able to build relationships with us. They can’t just be pieces of iron that move around. They have to have a sense of familiarity — the can’t be creepy. They certainly have to be useful and they have to be multipurpose,” Enwall said. “The vision of the company is to deliver Rosie or C3PO over time. We’re nowhere near that. But what you’ll see in the first generation are all four of those features.”

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