We’ve written several times about Kuri, a self-driving robot that responds to voice commands. But there’s a big question that still hasn’t been answered.
As Chris Matthews, vice president of marketing at Mayfield Robotics put it: “What does Kuri do?”
In other words, we know that Kuri is cute and fun, but why would someone pay $799 for it? The answer — at least a big part of the answer — comes today in the form of a service called Kuri Vision.
Kuri Vision turns the robot into a family videographer, recording eight videos every day, each of them five seconds in length. The service takes advantage of the vision capabilities that the company announced recently, with Kuri able to recognize family members and even pets.
As CEO Mike Beebe explained to me, Kuri uses that knowledge to shoot its videos, based on factors like who’s present, the time of day and the location. You can access the videos in the Kuri mobile app and indicate which ones you like and which ones you don’t, giving Kuri a better sense of what to record.
The goal isn’t to replace the photos and videos that you might already be taking. Nor is it meant to serve as a security camera (“I don’t want to build Robocop,” Beebe said), though it could help some users check on activity back at home.
Instead, Kuri should capture more of those candid moments when you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) stop to whip out your smartphone camera — moments when your family might be playing or cooking or talking together, and in Beebe’s words, “To step outside to take the picture, it wrecks it.”
Kuri doesn’t make a big deal about the fact that it’s making a video. That’s one of the reasons it should be able to capture the kind of content you wouldn’t get on your own, but it might also make you a little nervous about whether you’re being recorded. To mitigate this (or just to avoid getting lots of videos you don’t care about), users can designate certain rooms or times of day that are off limits for recording.
Beebe also emphasized that users should have complete control over their videos. As I mentioned, the videos are automatically uploaded to the Kuri app after they’re recorded, but they’re only shared with you. You can download and share them elsewhere, but there’s no social sharing within Kuri itself.
I met with Beebe and Matthews in July, when they walked me through Kuri Vision and also gave me a broader demo of Kuri’s capabilities. That includes automatically rolling over to a designated location, and then returning to the charger when it’s told to “go home.” Whatever Kuri does, it does it with a big dose of personality, as it looks around the room or makes beeping noises to create the illusion of life and intelligence.
According to Beebe, that kind of stuff is important, but it’s not enough: “If you’re going to actually get the robot renaissance through, you have to make robots that are joyful, useful and inspirational.” Kuri Vision will hopefully take care of the useful part of the equation — and then, over time time, Mayfield can introduce more capabilities.
“The biggest payoff is when you have a robot in your house for a couple of years and you start to think about all the other stuff it can do,” Beebe said. “The next level kicks in.”
Kuri is currently available for preorder. Mayfield plans to ship its first robots in December — though that initial wave is sold out. If you order now, you should get your Kuri in early 2018.