Kuri, A Security & Companion Robot That Can Smile With His EyesBy - 02/04/2017
UPDATE 8/7/2018: Despite the tech industry’s warm reception for Kuri, Mayfield Robotics ultimately decided to halt the robot’s production. Pre-order deposits were all refunded and no Kuris were shipped to customers. Regardless, Mayfield Robotics remains optimistic that the future holds great promises for personal home robots.
A crowd of personal home robots were displayed at CES, but one of them stood out, Kuri.
Though we tried and tried to catch a glimpse, Kuri was disappointedly the one tech product we wanted to see but didn’t.
@KuriRobot never mind. I found ya, but nobodies home ☹️
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) January 7, 2017
The good news is that through research and conversations, we have a pretty good idea of who Kuri is. He’s is a companion/personal assistant/security robot who reminds us of Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero 6, but smaller and less fluffy.
Getting to Know Kuri
Kuri is the brainchild of Mayfield Robotics, a startup backed by Bosch. Although it seems like Kuri’s just another “Alexa on wheels” kind of robot, he’s not. He’s an entertainer first, and an assistant and security robot second. And unlike Alexa, he can’t talk. He responds using chirps and beeps. Though that admittedly sounds rather lame, he can do some cool stuff. He’s fun, he’s mobile, he’s smart, and he’s even capable of protecting your home.
A few basics facts, before we get to the fun facts:
- Kuri is 20” tall and weighs 14lbs.
- He includes an app for iOS and Android.
- He can run on battery power for hours.
Fun fact: Mayfield hired a longtime Pixar animator to design Kuri’s gestures.
Kuri has features that are not necessarily functional, but they do make him appear friendlier. For example, he can move his head and eyes in a natural way. His head can look up, down, or sideways and his eyes can smile and blink. To enhance his ability to convey different emotions, his chest also lights up in warm colors depending on what he’s feeling. You’ll know when he’s happy, feeling down, or just thinking.
Kuri also responds when the top of his head is touched. Using capacitive touch sensors, he can look up and smile or make an affirmative beep when you give him a little pet.
Kuri also acts as an entertainer. Although he can’t speak, he can play music, podcasts, or read audio books aloud. He can even connect to your phone via Bluetooth to play music.
Part of what makes robots awesome is mobility. Unlike Amazon Echo, Google Home, or even the new LG Smart Assistant, Kuri has wheels. His wheels are designed to handle different terrains including hardwood, vinyl, carpets, and rugs.
You can control Kuri using a virtual trackpad via the app, or he can move around on his own. He is programmed to map your home using 3D mapping sensors. He can learn where things are and which room belongs to whom. He also knows where his charging station is, and can navigate autonomously to recharge when needed or when he’s not in use. Although the learning process is automatic, you can speed things up by giving him a tour. Also, you can make Kuri track and follow people around the house.
Of course, he has limits. He doesn’t do stairs, and he can’t walk through obstacles. But don’t worry, Kuri’s mapping system includes a laser sensor that helps him walk around obstacles and avoid stairs.
Kuri is smart. He can learn, and eventually use what he knows to self-improve. Kuri learns using his onboard processor. In addition to learning the layout of your home, he can also learn to recognize faces. Kuri sees using a FHD, 1080p camera. He can also recognize voices. Using four sound-sensitive microphones, he can locate where sounds are coming from. Using facial and speech recognition, he can contextualize his response to voice commands. However, since he can’t speak, he uses the smartphone app to deliver information to you when needed.
Finally, Kuri is a security robot. Combining his mapping feature, 1080p camera, and intelligence, he can patrol your home while you’re away, looking for unusual movement. If he detects motion, he immediately sends out a notification to your phone while recording the event and saving it to the cloud. Details on cloud service and cost, if any, are still TBD. If needed, you can respond to alerts using his two-way voice feature.
Additionally, Kuri monitors your home for unusually loud sounds. Using his sound-sensitive microphones and sense of direction, he can navigate to sounds, notify you, and give you a look at what’s going on. You can also navigate Kuri manually to check things out from anywhere.
His final security feature is IFTTT integration. Through IFTTT Applets, he can connect with home automation services and trigger actions when something out of the ordinary happens. For instance, he can turn on IFTTT-connected lights, such as Philips Hue, when he detects motion or sound.
We’re still a year away from seeing Kuri finished and ready. Mayfield plans to start shipping out pre-orders in December. The Kuri prototype displayed at CES lacked some features, such as the ability to follow people or respond to voice commands, proving there is still work to be done. That said, it’s impossible to judge him. Even those who did successfully find Kuri at CES didn’t get the real experience. But we can judge him on is facts. Kuri can’t and won’t be able to talk, and that’s a glaring omission. Most robots we review can speak, and they can respond to you without requiring you to look at your phone.
The search for the best robot is still underway. If you want to test him on your own, Kuri will sell for $699 and you can pre-order now with a $100 deposit. The remaining $599 will be collected at shipment.