Kuri the home companion robot

Death cab for Kuri: Bosch kills off cute domestic robot

According to its manufacturer, Mayfield Robotics, the robot was “not a business fit” and will not be going on general sale.

The robot was first unveiled at CES 2017 and returned to the technology show in 2018, ahead of its scheduled commercial rollout, where it attracted considerable attention for its cute appearance and behaviour.

The small, self-driving robot is designed to wander around a home, playing with children and making burbling sounds. It uses a laser sensor array to build up a floor plan of its home, which it uses to navigate around different rooms – although it is not able to handle staircases.

As well as entertaining small children, Kuri can record photos and video footage of domestic life unobtrusively. It uses facial recognition to identify moments worthy of being captured (i.e. those involving groups of people) and as users pick the clips they like and delete the ones they dislike, Kuri gains a better sense of what kind of clips to capture.

A limited number of Kuris were delivered to US customers in December 2017 and general pre-orders had opened, allowing people to put down a $799 (£606) deposit for the robot. Just last month, the Kuri control app was released, which allows people to access photos and videos recorded by their robots.

Now, Mayfield Robotics has abruptly announced that Kuri will not be going on general sale, saying that it was “not a business fit” for its parent company, Bosch.

“We are crushed to let you know that effective today, Mayfield Robotics will pause operations as we evaluate the company’s path forward,” the company announced in a blog post. “Sadly, our Kuri manufacturing will cease and the Kuri robots that have been made will not ship to customers. All pre-order deposits will be refunded to our customers.”

However, the company expressed confidence that appealing home robots like Kuri had a bright future ahead.

“The vision that began Mayfield Robotics was to make robots that are joyful, useful and inspiring. Kuri struck each of those notes and we remain optimistic for an adorable robot future that aligns with our vision […] we stand firm in our belief that the home robot Renaissance is just beginning and it’s going to be amazing,” the company concluded.

Other home robots under development include Anki’s Cozmo (a small pet-like robot capable of responding to facial expressions) and the newest iteration of Sony’s Aibo (a playful robotic dog). While these robots often attract popular attention, manufacturers have struggled to create a robot dedicated to domestic play worth its price tag.

Meanwhile, SoftBank’s Boston Dynamics ha announced that it will soon be producing 1,000 SpotMini robots every year. According to the company, these small, highly dextrous and mobile quadruped robots could have applications in delivery, security and domestic assistance.

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