The market for home companion robots has suffered yet another setback. Bosch-backed Mayfield Robotics is pausing operations and stopping production of its Kuri robot. The Kuri robots that have recently been manufactured will not ship to customers. All pre-order deposits will be refunded to customers.
We have reached out to Mayfield Robotics to discuss what happened, but have yet to hear back. While it’s not yet clear how Mayfield Robotics got to this point, a blog announcing the ceasing of operations says that “typically, startups in the Bosch Startup Platform are integrated into existing Bosch business units, but after extensive review, there was not a business fit within Bosch to support and scale our business.”
A scroll through the Mayfield Robotics Twitter account shows the intent, unless the Tweets are disingenuous, even recently was to ship the Kuri robot. Would a company like Bosch really pull the plug on a startup overnight? Mayfield Robotics was promoting the availability of the Kuri robot as recently as July 15, 2018:
— KuriRobot (@KuriRobot) July 15, 2018
On June 4, 2018, Mayfield Robotics tweeted “our team has been hard at work readying our robot for his second wave of shipments to pre-order customers!.”
— Mayfield Robotics (@MayfieldRobot) June 4, 2018
The company also had a couple recent tweets about hiring employees. On May 29, 2018, Mayfield Robotics tweeted “Looking for your next career move? We’re hiring across marketing, product, and software – including summer internships!” And on June 11, 2018 it tweeted the following photo to introduce some of its new employees:
Meet the newest Mayfielders! From left to right we have Eric (QA Engineer), Leah (Hardware Intern), James (Sr. Systems Tech), John (Software Intern), and Willie (Customer Support). Interested in joining us? We’re hiring! https://t.co/pSiIG61kg3 #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/dcPybnRTzb
— Mayfield Robotics (@MayfieldRobot) June 11, 2018
I met with Mayfield Robotics during its launch of the Kuri robot at CES 2017. Mayfield Robotics thought it had a leg up on the competition because of Bosch’s manufacturing expertise and deep pockets. Mayfield Robotics was part of the Bosch Startup Program, which in part helped Bosch learn some lessons about startup companies.
Mayfield Robotics said the Kuri robot ($699) would help Bosch figure out if home robotics is a thing. Unfortunately, Bosch, Mayfield Robotics and others have learned the answer to that question. After raising more than $73 million in funding, Jibo recently laid off the majority of its workforce to enable “additional time to secure additional funding or pursue an exit.” Jibo made multiple mistakes that led to its demise, but the social robot maker was ultimately plagued by its price and lack of skills.
Despite this, several major companies are still working on home companion robots. LG, for example, continues to develop the Cloi robot that help users control smart home appliances. However, a Cloi prototype had a disastrous debut at CES 2018, repeatedly failing to respond to messages on stage during LG’s keynote. LG also missed its original June 2018 shipping date.
Kuri stands 20 inches tall and was more of “an intelligent pet than a robot butler.” The Kuri robot has wheels to autonomously navigate its environment, can apture images and video, responds to voice commands, has facial recognition capabilities, and can play music. The Kuri robot also strongly touted its singing and dancing capabilities. Mayfield Robotics did admit the functionality of the Kuri robot would be limited at the start, but it would develop additional skills down the road.
It doesn’t look like the Kuri robot will have the chance to learn new skills. Mayfield Robotics admits it doesn’t know what the coming months will bring, but it says “we stand firm in our belief that the home robot Renaissance is just beginning, and it’s going to be amazing.”
I’m not so sure. Perhaps Jibo, Mayfield Robotics and other companion robots that have failed are simply ahead of their time. Hopefully a consumer home robot company, other than a vacuum maker, can break through soon and prove me wrong.
Here’s the complete announcement from Mayfield Robotics:
An Important (And Difficult) Announcement
To all of our Kuri fans, we are crushed to let you know that effective today, Mayfield Robotics will pause operations as we evaluate the company’s path forward. 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.
So what happened?
As many of you know, Mayfield Robotics was launched in 2015 as an independent entity of the Bosch Startup Platform. From the beginning, we have been constantly looking for the best paths to achieve scale and continue to advance our innovative technology. Typically, startups in the Bosch Startup Platform are integrated into existing Bosch business units, but after extensive review, there was not a business fit within Bosch to support and scale our business.
Since Kuri’s award-winning launch at CES 2017, our adorable home robot has been demoed and celebrated at TED, SXSW, The Aspen Ideas Festival, The Economist Innovation Summit, and many other high-profile events. It’s an understatement to say that we are all hugely disappointed by this pause to operations. We remain proud of the work we’ve done to push home robotics forward.
What happens now?
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 want to sincerely thank everyone who supported us: our families, our friends, our suppliers, and of course, you, our customers.
Creating a robot like Kuri is a massive undertaking. We don’t know what the coming months will bring. Regardless, we stand firm in our belief that the home robot Renaissance is just beginning, and it’s going to be amazing.
If you have questions regarding your preorder, please email our Kuri Experience team at email@example.com.