A humanoid, mobile, and much cuter version of the Amazon Echo, the “Kuri 8” robot by California-based startup Mayfield Robotics will perform a range of actions at your command. But its functionality doesn’t end there. Not only will it project videos, play music, read to you, tell you the weather, or entertain you with a podcast, it’ll follow you from room to room if you wish, chirp, blink, and glow, making it a personal companion along the lines of pop culture robots like R2-D2, BB-8, and Wall-E.
The three pillars that make up how Kuri functions are mobility, awareness, and personality. Standing 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide, Kuri boasts a built-in 1080p camera so you can keep an eye on your house or pets when you’re away, plus a four-microphone array, dual speakers, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and sensors for mapping and detecting objects so it won’t fall down stairs or constantly bump into furniture. When it’s time for it to recharge, it’ll automatically return to its charging dock for a “nap.”
Instead of a screen, it’s got an animated head with moving “eyelids,” relying on a vertical lift and six motors to blink and create Kuri’s signature “smile.” Mayfield says Kuri is a “him,” but especially since it doesn’t have a voice, it seems like you could gender your android companion however you prefer.
You activate Kuri much the way you would Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, with a phrase like “Hey, Kuri.” You can also engage with it via an Apple or Android smartphone app instead of using verbal commands, and check out all of its content, including videos that have been recorded.
The robot responds to your touch, too, so if you pat it on the head or accidentally kick it, it’ll react appropriately, either with affection or confusion. Kuri can also be programmed to greet you when you come home, moving toward you with its characteristic waddle and smiling eyes. The robot recognizes individual people and can understand context and surroundings. After a while, it’ll get to know everyone in the family and learn the layout of your house.
Many people are still resistant to allowing robots into their homes, fearing the kind of dystopian takeover of artificial intelligence we see in movies like “Terminator” and “Ex Machina,” and in television series like “Westworld.” Kuri puts a much friendlier face on robot technology, however, inviting people to connect without trying to pass as human or coming off cold and detached. Its purpose is more about helpfulness and creating a connection than impressive engineering.
“While insanely cute on the outside, Kuri contains serious technologies on the inside that represent the latest developments in smartphones, gaming, and robotics,” says Kaijen Hsiao, CTO and co-founder of Mayfield Robotics. “We hope Kuri introduces people—especially kids—to the power of technology and can inspire a new world of possibilities for their future.”
Kuri debuted at CES 2017 and is priced at $699. Pre-orders are available now in the US, with a $100 deposit, at HeyKuri.com.