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Interview: Doug Dooley, Kuri Animation Designer

Welcome to the the first of  a running series about the people who have contributed greatly to the creation of Kuri, the perfect little home robot.  Today we are talking with Doug Dooley, Kuri’s Animation Designer.”

Q: Let’s start with an introduction: who are you and what do you do here?

“My name is Doug Dooley, I’m an animator here at Mayfield. What I really love about animating is this idea of creating life and when I first saw robotics I had that realization that this is my chance to get in on the very beginning of something.”

Doug Dooley, animator for Kuri the Home Robot
Mayfield Robotics Animator Doug Dooley (right) and his best friend, Kuri.

Q: What are the most challenging parts of designing a robot’s movements?

“Generally, people assume that we should always want to make robots that are more and more human. Most people aren’t sure why, but they understand that robots aren’t usually very appealing to interact with, and they default to thinking they should be more like us. That’s understandable, but it’s not really true.””

Q: How did you learn about animation?

“I graduated with one of the first computer animation degrees in the country, and I was an animator at Pixar for 13 years. Over that time I’ve realized there are a lot of tricks to making something appear alive.””

Q: What makes Kuri’s animations different?

“The stuff I’m using on Kuri is the stuff I never read in books. I knew that probably the best solution for Kuri is to not make him look human – that would promise more than it can deliver. Instead, we’re focused on making Kuri move in humanistic ways. Really what it’s about is showing human thought: as humans we always show our thought and move our head before we actually move our body or change direction. With Kuri we needed to make a very simple design to make sure that everything communicated really well.””

Q: How do Kuri’s animations help him stay adorable?

“To make sure that everything he does is not going to be creepy, we had to make sure that you knew a split second beforehand exactly what he’s going to do. If you can anticipate intent, you’re going to feel comfortable with him in your home. It’s a small thing, but it’s instinctual and super important in developing a trustworthy and friendly personality.”

Q: What’s been your favorite moment so far in Kuri’s development?

“I think one of the most exciting moments for me working with this team was at the very beginning: they got what I was saying instantly, and in many cases had already anticipated the groundwork for my ideas. Some of they’d even been talking about already. This is a really artistic team, and I find it really exciting to be working with them.”


  1. Hi, I’m Stephen Kuri. As I’m sure you know Kuri is a Very unique rather rare name. I live in San Jose and am wondering how you decided to name your Robot. Regards, Stephen Kuri

    • Chris Matthews

      Hi Stephen! Kuri was a name suggested by one of our early beta-test families, and it ended up being a name we all really liked – plus, it works really well with voice commands because it’s got a distinctive hard initial sound, and soft trailing sound. That way when you say “Hey Kuri” to get his attention, it works super reliably. We also kinda liked that it means Chestnut in Japanese, but that was a coincidence.

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