HOME BOT

This is the first home robot you might actually want

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Roomba might have been the first robot to prove its use in the home, but Kuri is the first you might actually want to spend time with.

Mayfield Robotics, the maker of Kuri, has a different approach for a home robot. Rather than controlling internet-connected devices or answering questions about your schedule like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, Kuri’s main mission is to complete simple tasks around the house, like reading bedtime stories to your kids or following you around while playing NPR. It can take videos while running around the home, or see who just came in the door.

But more than anything, Mayfield, which is backed by international technology conglomerate Bosch, is making a robot for people who want a robot. Kuri is no R2-D2, but it scoots around and has a lot of personality. At 20 inches, it’s large enough to qualify as a real robot, and it will cost $699, comparable to a Roomba.

Kuri robot
Kuri avoiding objects as it patrols a room. (Quartz/Dave Gershgorn)

Here’s what it can do for you:

Surveillance. If you want to check up on your house while you’re out, Kuri can roll around looking for any suspicious motion. The bot builds a map of the layout of your house, so it can tell when things are out of place or in motion. CEO Michael Beebe said he uses Kuri to keep his great dane off the couch when he’s not home. Kuri can be set to patrol the house, or controlled remotely to roam the halls through an app.

Recognize faces. When you bring Kuri home, you’re supposed to show it the faces of your family members, so it learns who is generally in the house. This way, it can alert you when someone it doesn’t recognize enters your home or greet those it knows. This would be useful for parents whose children return home from school before they do: Kuri can alert concerned parents their children arrived home safe and sound each day.

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A gaggle of Kuris reacting to getting bonked. (Quartz/Dave Gershgorn)

Play music. Rather like a roving Amazon Echo, Kuri can be used as a wireless Bluetooth speaker, so anything you might play off your iPhone or computer can be broadcast through Kuri. The robot’s internal speakers are also relatively loud, meaning Kuri could well replace the DJ (or DJ Roomba) at your next party.

Transmit voice messages. Kuri can be used as a messenger. If you’re in the kitchen and want to tell the kids upstairs that dinner is ready, you can record a voice message with Kuri’s app and tell the bot to relay the message to them.

Be adorable. Mayfield’s executives told Quartz they saw Kuri’s main selling point as being a “spark of life.” What really sets Kuri apart is the fact it appears so lifelike. It has agency, and it reacts to you and how you interact with it. It provides a life-like figure in the home that’s separate and unique from a pet, but also something that could provide a modicum of companionship for children, the elderly, or the lonely in a novel way. Mayfield worked with former Pixar animators and spent a lot of time creating a set of motions and sounds to give Kuri the appearance of existence, and it really is quite easy to feel something for the diminutive bots.

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