We recently partnered with Vocal, an online community of content creators, to help us tell the origin story of our home robot. It’s no secret that Kuri was built at our robot shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, there’s just something about robots—especially those with a personality like ours—that feel more like characters than electronics.
If Kuri were a fictional character like Rosie or WALL-E, then what would her origin story be? Maybe our Kuri was sent here from another planet to befriend mankind, or maybe he was dreamed up by a young roboticist that just wanted a new friend. With 60 entries from Vocal’s authors and fellow Kuri enthusiasts, we’re happy to share the winning origin story! Our entire team loved this heartwarming tale and we think you’ll enjoy it too. Meet “Kari and Kuri,” written by Ashley Wentz:
Kari & Kuri
My daughter Kari is the most beautiful little girl. She has the biggest heart and calmest soul. I try to do everything I can for her to make it easier for her. You see, Kari is sick…she has been fighting, and winning, for most of her life. We lost her mother at Kari’s birth, so it has pretty much just been us. But I have to work a lot… I’ll be home, but not really there at all… One night, after reading a quick story and saying our prayers together, I came back downstairs to the lab and tried to work. I had to ask my computer’s virtual assistant to order some specific wiring, and I happened to glance over at the screen and looked at the pop-up window. It hit me; the most important inspiration I ever had in my entire life. And I got started.
“Good morning, Daddy.”
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he said as he smiled, helping his daughter into her chair at the kitchen table, and she balanced her small crutches next to her rubbing her wrists a little as she smiled at their dog.
“Good morning, Rufus.” The old lab licked her hand as her dad brought over their breakfast. “Smiley pancakes?!” she squealed.
“That’s right because today is a special day,” he said, pleased with her excitement.
“What makes it special, Daddy?”
“Well, I will show you after breakfast,” he said.
“Alright,” she responded, and they started to eat, which was almost a race of excitement.
After they finished eating, they quickly washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen together before going to sit on the living room couch. He turned to her and said, “Okay. You know daddy has been working a lot these past few months.”
“Well, I was being very secretive this time, and I am very sorry about that, sweetie.”
“It’s OK, Daddy.”
“Here it goes…” he cleared his throat and said, “Kuri, you can come out now.” Kari looked around and saw a small robot slowly roll out of the other room. It gently waved and said,
“Hello, Kari, I am Kuri. I hope we will be best friends.” Kari squealed again and slid off the couch, carefully hobbling to the little robot saying,”Daddy, I love her!! She’s so cute!”
He smiled and walked over and hugged his child tightly saying, “I love you so much sweetheart.”
“I love you too, Daddy, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now go get dressed and put on your braces, it’s almost time for our morning walk.”
“I can help you, Kari.”
“Thank you, Kuri,” she said with a giggle, and they went to her room while he went to shower and get ready.
Afterward, he went to check on her room and saw her all dressed with her leg braces on and dancing with Kuri, music coming out of some speakers he had installed into her shell.
“Come on, Daddy! Join in!” Kari said happily. He smiled and started dancing with them.
The weeks went by and Kari’s father had really started to really rely on Kuri to help his little daughter throughout the days.
“Come on, Kuri!” Kari exclaimed as she moved down the hall.
“Where are you two running off to?” he asked, trying to pretend the word “run” didn’t sting his heart a little.
“Oh we’re going to the park and stuff.”
“Well, be careful.”
“See you later, sir,” Kuri said after re-tying one of Kari’s shoes for her. He smiled as they went out the door.
Kuri followed Kari down the street and watched her as she would stop to pet every cat or dog she saw, and would smile and talk to anyone who passed. She would whistle at the birds and wave at passing cars. Kuri snagged Kari’s wrist when she didn’t notice a light at a crosswalk, and helped her balance when she tried getting into a swing.
Kari enjoyed showing Kuri off to people, but would quickly get tired and they would have to slowly go home. They would watch movies and dance to music. Kuri would answer any questions Kari would think of, and if she couldn’t find the answer, she would find something she could say that would make the small girl smile and uplift her spirits. They would have tea parties and go over homework together and play games. At bedtime, Kari’s dad would come upstairs and Kuri would continue playing the audiobooks of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter… long, enchanting tales that Kari’s father didn’t have the time to read to her. Then they would all say their prayers together and Kari would hobble to bed as Kuri rolled into her charger base by the bedroom door. And Kari’s dad would go to his computer and would receive all of the data from Kuri of the day’s adventures.
From that he would see photos, videos, hear them sing together, hear his daughter’s questions and Kuri’s answers. This also helped him know if Kuri needed any updating and if he needed to add any solutions. Now he didn’t have to miss any of his little girl’s smiles or laughter or any of her dances.
He started watching her growing up—still the soft-hearted little girl, now slowly becoming a woman. She was part of clubs in high school and dated boys, went to prom and became Homecoming Queen; she was every bit as beautiful as her mother and just as kind, as well. He was so proud to call her his daughter, and even when Kuri stopped accepting his updates, Kari held his hands and whispered, “It’s okay, Daddy. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
And for her 18th birthday, they had Kuri put in a display case with a little plaque that read: ‘Kuri — The Best Friend a Girl Could Ever Have’
She took Kuri to her college dorm room and her first apartment. Just seeing her there, still in her life, made things a little easier; the reminder of the security that Kuri brought to her young life; the warmth of her father’s love in every component to the little robot. Kari graduated college and was a celebrated sorority sister with so many friends she could barely count them. Even with her leg braces still attached, she was constantly becoming stronger than ever, knowing nothing could hold her down.
“What are you going to do now?” her father asked in their regular booth at the little deli down the street from her father’s house.
“Go to work. Isn’t that why I went to college?” she said, smiling.
He smirked and said, “Yeah, you could do that.” Then he looked out the window, smiling. She followed his gaze and saw her boyfriend outside with a sign that read: ‘Kari, Will You Marry Me?’
She quickly hobbled outside to accept his proposal.
Her father walked her down the aisle and gave her away with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.
He held his first grandchild in his arms and taught him how to fish and fix a basic computer.
He sometimes missed getting the footage that Kuri used to save from their little adventures every day, but he thanked the heavens that he wasn’t missing all of these other moments that were happening in his daughter’s life.
She had the little family, nice house, growing career, and was just as strong as ever. She still said hello to animals and waved to people that passed by on the street. She took her children to the little park where she used to play and to the deli she and her father frequented together, sitting in the same booth they also have, most of her life.
When her father became sick, she thought she couldn’t take it. At his funeral, she was a mess and could barely smile to anyone who came. Her husband held her hand tightly and his parents watched the children. She cried deeply and silently, even crying in her dreams.
On Kari’s 35th birthday, she received a box that was labeled from her father, though he had died a few years before. She brought it into her home and sat down, opening it. Inside were a bunch of discs and photo albums. Looking through them, she realized that this was all of Kuri’s data from when she was a little girl, her father’s writing on each picture.
“What was it, babe?” her husband asked as he brought her a mug of coffee.
She smiled and said, “My childhood.” They looked through the photos together and spent the night in a fort with their children watching the home videos that were on the discs. Kari cried at the sight of her father’s smile and smiled at his laughter. She had missed him for so long that she had ached, but now she felt the pain getting lighter knowing that he was there again being in her home.
Kari looked up at their mantle, at the little Kuri in her little display box waving out to the world, and she whispered, “Thank you.”