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Kuri is an adorable robotic home companion designed by a longtime Pixar animator

By Koh Wanzi - on 4 Jan 2017, 4:42pm

Kuri is an adorable robotic home companion designed by a longtime Pixar animator

The next big thing in innovative smart home technology may just be a robot. The latest entrant into the field is Kuri, a cute home robot that you can control by just speaking to it. Kuri was designed by a longtime Pixar animator, and that design DNA is evident in its rotund shape and amiable, expressive eyes.

The robot is the product of Mayfield Robotics, a startup owned and funded by appliance manufacturer Bosch. ASUS has attempted the same with Zenbo, another endearing home robot.

Kuri responds to voice input via a four-microphone array built into its body. These microphones pick up sound from all directions, so Kuri can hear you regardless of where you are in the room. There’s an integrated speaker as well, but Kuri does not respond with words.

Instead, it uses various sounds, lights, and its eyes to communicate with you, which may only contribute to its overall appeal (and cute factor). For instance, it emits cute noises when asked to perform a task, and a built-in LED changes color according to its mood. It even responds to its name with a series of playful movements.

Kuri eschews purely functional design in favor of an approach that sets it up to be a proper home companion.

All this is a very deliberate part of Kuri’s design philosophy, and the team behind it wanted to create a robot that could connect with people on a more emotional level and which didn’t feel like just a piece of technology. In fact, each nod of its head, blink of an eye, and even its body shape and pacing were carefully considered.

A built-in HD camera sits behind one of Kuri’s eyes, and an assortment of sensors and a laser array help it navigate and prevent it from bumping into objects. Its body rests on three wheels that can rotate in any direction, so it can follow you from room to room quite nimbly.

An onboard processor handles tasks like voice and image recognition locally –  saying “Hey Kuri” wakes it up, and it can recognize family members or friends. It controls smart home devices using IFTT and can even automatically return to its docking station when its battery runs low.

In addition, an iOS or Android app is available to control and interact with Kuri.

Customers can pre-order Kuri now if they put down a US$100 deposit, with a further US$699 to be paid at shipment toward the end of the year. Kuri is far from complete however, and the team still has many software and hardware improvements planned.

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