Kuri the cute home robot gets canned by Bosch

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KuriImage source, Mayfield Robotics
Image caption,
The team behind Kuri had been working on the project for three years

A home robot that had a high profile at recent events has been cancelled before going on sale to the wider public.

Kuri was designed to play with children, respond to voice commands and patrol properties while filming videos and taking photos.

Its control app was released last month ahead of its anticipated launch, but its maker said parent company Bosch had decided it was "not a business fit".

Other technology giants, however, continue to develop home robots.

"We are crushed to let you know that effective today, Mayfield Robotics will pause operations as we evaluate the company's path forward," Bosch's subsidiary said in a blog.

"Sadly, our Kuri manufacturing will cease and the Kuri robots that have been made will not ship to customers."

The company added those who had paid $799 (£607) to pre-order the machines would be refunded.

Chirping chat

Kuri was first shown to the public at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, in 2017, when it was announced that it would "begin shipping" later that year.

A limited number of devices were delivered to US buyers in December.

Image source, Mayfield Robotics
Image caption,
Mayfield Robtics delivered a batch of the robots at the end of last year

Kuri also made appearances at the Ted talks, the South by Southwest festival and the Economist Innovation Summit among other events.

Its features included:

  • face recognition to help it "capture unexpected moments" around the home
  • mapping sensors to prevent it bumping into objects or falling down stairs
  • touch detection to allow it to respond to its owner in cute ways, such as looking up and chirping if its head was tapped

Mayfield Robotics was still promoting sales of the robot via social media as recently as 15 July.

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Although it has now halted the project, the business added: "We stand firm in our belief that the home robot renaissance is just beginning - and it's going to be amazing."

'Tough challenge'

Other home robots have managed to make it into consumers' hands over the past year, including Jibo, Keecker, Lynx and a new version of Sony's robo-pet Aibo - but reviews have criticised their limited capabilities and significant price tags.

"We're in the stone age of the home robot market," said Ben Wood, from the tech consultancy CCS Insight.

"Lots of companies are trying to crack a very tough technology challenge.

"They want to have skin in the game in case the opportunity comes to fruition.

"But it's becoming increasingly apparent that it's still a bit early to deliver against consumers' expectations."

Despite this, several big-name brands are working on further home robots.

LG continues to develop Cloi - a robot designed to help users control smart home appliances, which turns to face its owner's voice but does not otherwise move.

A prototype, however, made a disastrous debut at this year's CES, where it repeatedly failed to respond to commands, and the South Korean company has missed its original target of making the machine available in June.

Media caption,

WATCH: LG's marketing chief said Cloi "doesn't like me" after it ignored his commands

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Amazon was "throwing more money and people" at an effort to develop a robot version of its Echo smart speakers.

It also said that Huawei was working on a model to teach children English, which is said to be targeted at its home market of China.

Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics - a former sister company to Google - recently declared that by July 2019 it aimed to be able to produce 1,000 of its SpotMini robo-dogs a year.

It added that homecare and security were two expected uses of the product.

Media caption,

The latest capabilities of the SpotMini robot will either delight or terrify

In the near-term, Mr Wood predicted that models with more limited but practical functions had the best chance of mainstream success.

"Robot vacuum cleaners, for example, are very good at fulfilling a somewhat utilitarian task," he said.

"They deliver on the promise that they can free up their owners to do other things."

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