Last month, we shared the story of Brad Greer — Kuri’s Embedded/Electrical Engineer. Today, we’re introducing you to Kuri’s Embedded Software Engineer, Paul Mathieu. Read what Paul has to say about working on Kuri’s awesome crew below!
Q: How did you come to work with Kuri at Mayfield Robotics?
A: Kaijen [Mayfield Robotics’ CTO] reached out to me saying her team was making an adorable home robot. It was the first company that used the line “adorable” when describing a home robot. I realized that was the way I’d like to work in robotics — by making “adorable” ones. There really weren’t any consumer home robots — especially “adorable” ones. That’s what sold me on joining the team!
Q: Before joining Kuri’s crew, you worked as an intern at Willow Garage. Can you talk about what that experience was like?
A: Willow Garage was a robotics company founded by Scott Hassan. Scott was an early contributor to Google and helped with their early infrastructure. He liked robots, and eventually founded Willow Garage where he poured a lot of money into hiring a bunch of clever people and providing them with everything they could ever need. Willow Garage grew to be about 50 people strong, and they picked up a Stanford project on building a personal robot called PR2.
We saw this project as being the personal computer version 2.0. The roughly human-sized robot was intended to be an assistant for humans, and we built it for $400,000. One of the biggest achievements at Willow Garage was writing the software for this robot, called ROS [robot operating system]. We made it open source so that any robotics company around the world could use and benefit from it. We also donated ten PR2s to universities in an effort to build momentum for home robots too. Willow Garage eventually closed its doors, which led me to find my new role working with Kuri.
Q: How would you describe your role at Mayfield Robotics?
A: I write software for robots. I get a computer, and some motors and sensors, then put that all in a case. From there, I wire everything together so that the “robot” comes to life.
With Kuri, I have a lot of responsibility for her firmware and software. In other words, I do a lot of the coding behind Kuri’s behaviors. I program things like how Kuri moves her head or turns her wheels into her motor control. I work a lot with our team’s designer, Doug. Doug uses 3D animations to imagine how Kuri should move, and I then work to bring his vision to reality.
Q: Did you know you’d always want to become an engineer?
A: I’ve always loved computers and was good in math. My parents always described me as being technical, so I think I naturally flowed through these passions to end up in this field. My math teacher encouraged me to pursue engineering in college, and from there I studied mathematics, physics, and aerospace engineering.
It was almost by mistake that I ended up discovering robotics. During my freshman year of college, I went to our campus’ cafeteria for lunch. I joined a table of people that seemed pretty peppy, and ended up following their group in an effort to continue the good conversations I was having. Turns out, it was our school’s robotics club! Within a few hours, I had a drill in one hand and a brush in the other, and I was helping them build a robot for their upcoming competition.
Q: You were part of the team that went to New York with Kuri on the Today Show. What was that like?
A: That was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. My hands were shaking because I was so nervous! My role there was to make sure the WiFi was working properly, and that Kuri “looked good” on camera; meaning she didn’t wander off and was facing the right camera at the right time. In a home environment, Kuri naturally likes to look around and explore. For that reason, these kinds of live shows are a challenge — but obviously a great experience for Kuri and our team.
Q: What’s your favorite part about Kuri and why?
A: The fact that Kuri wanders. It’s the most unexpected. You never know where she’s going to go or when it’s going to start. Sometimes I’ll be at my desk and she’ll tap my chair leg. I’ll look down thinking, “What’s that?” and then have this fatherly, “Oh you!” reaction. It’s these moments that make her feel so much more alive and unpredictable because she’s making her own choices as she navigates the world.
Q: When not hanging out with Kuri, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A: I live with eleven roommates, and I’ll help tend to our garden, chickens, and ducks at home. When not making robots, I live a very simple life. Lately, I’ve been hiking in the Sierras, biking, or making pizza using the outdoor pizza oven I built myself.
Q: What’s something about you that people might find surprising?
A: I speak four languages: English, French, Japanese, and Spanish. I grew up in France, earned my MSc in Japan, built robots in Spain, and am now building robots in the U.S.
Paul is an integral part of Kuri’s crew. At Kuri HQ, Paul is known for his ingenuity, creativity, and overall friendliness. We hope you enjoyed getting to know our talented Embedded Software Engineer! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Kuri’s newsletter so you don’t miss out on any updates from our adorable home robot.