Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri home robot is now more expressive than ever

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Kuri, the robotic home companion from Bosch-backed startup Mayfield Robotics, may be a few months from launch, but the team isn’t resting on its laurels. On Thursday, Mayfield pulled back the curtains on major Kuri speech and animation milestones.

For the uninitiated, Kuri is a 20-inch-tall home robot that’s packed to the brim with technologies like asynchronous motors, a capacitive touch sensor, microphones, speakers, and an HD camera. But unlike most other home robots, it has a personality — it reacts when you call its name, and it emotes when you tell it to perform a task.

The robot recognized voice commands before, but now it understands more. You can say things like, “Hey Kuri, stop,” and it’ll stop what it’s doing, or, “Hey Kuri, play the news” to begin an National Public Radio (NPR) stream. And it’s now smart enough to head in the direction of a room you’ve saved — you if you say, “Hey Kuri, got to the kitchen,” for example, it will do as instructed.

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Kuri’s emoji — the animated expressions it makes to requests — have been beefed up, too.  It’ll respond with a confused “huh?” emoji if it doesn’t understand something, or a “got it” following a command.

And last but not least, its hardware has been improved. The newest iteration uses shielded motor sensors cables that cut down on electrical noise, reduces interference with smart home electronics and smartphones enable “more smooth, life-like” animations.

“It’s a big step forward in making Kuri really act alive in ways that are responding to you, and it feels really warm and friendly when you see it in person,” a spokesperson said.

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It’s all in keeping with the company’s mission: Creating a lifelike robot with a sense of empathy. “It doesn’t feel like a robot in the traditional sense,” Chris Matthews, Mayfield’s vice president of marketing, told Digital Trends. “It connects to people in a different way than normal tech — it’s very much about what people feel.”

And it’s getting better. In March, Mayfield improved Kuri’s speech recognition, redesigned its speaker enclosure, re-engineered its convex-shaped eyes, and partnered with rules engine IFTTT.

“We want to ship a complete product — one that’s useful for everyone,” Matthews said. “We want to build robots that are joyful, useful, and inspiring … [and] we’re working hard to make sure that we’re hitting on those three cords.”

Kuri is available for pre-order at HeyKuri.com with a $100 deposit. It will retail for $700 next year and ship with a dedicated charging dock.

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