When Kuri Came to Be
Around 9 AM.
It was Christmas. Harry took a moment to realise it. Still asleep in his bed, conscience and subconscious seemed to engage in a merciless battle: one to hold him a little longer, the other to lure him into his meanders. His consciousness always ended up winning, so it was. His eyes had not yet opened, but he felt that a reality he used to was trying to invade him. It was a matter of seconds. Maybe less. Already awake, his senses well rested after a restful night, were operational. The sounds came to him distinctly now. He heard the buzzing of a fly near his right ear. The touch too, he felt the weight and warmth of the big blanket on his legs. It was Christmas. The information had stagnated in his brain as if suspended somewhere in the gray matter, no doubt. It probably had to go around in circles waiting for a neural connection to gently decide to do its job. "Eureka!" shouted Archimedes in his bath. Harry had the same feeling; that of having solved THE great mystery. And his whole body started. A sudden start made him sit up abruptly in his bed, his eyes opened at once, his pupils dilated and his heart beating. The adrenaline of the moment gave him an energy that only required explode. A moment later, he had jumped out of bed like a superhero, wearing his pyjamas of convenience—that of Ironman 7.0 improved version— and set off without anything stopping him. It was Christmas, Harry was sure of it now, and a big smile clung to his face despite the urgency of the situation.
It was Christmas. Kuri was there, near the tree, neatly wrapped in bright red gift wrap and an emerald green ribbon. It was nothing more, for the moment, than a set of metal pieces tidy in a box. Her head and wheels had no physical connection to the trunk, the biggest piece of this giant humanoid puzzle. Her brain, meanwhile, the smallest part of the whole, was a circuit board that had been the subject of many tests in the laboratories of the firm that had created it: the “Mayfield Robotics.” Her consciousness, if we could call it that, was in fact lines of code that enabled her to understand, analyse, and execute predefined actions in order to interact with the unpredictable world of humans. It was Christmas, and Kuri was smiling too. It was the first thing the “MR” marketing department wanted us to discover when we opened the box: Kuri’s cute face.
Harry had run down the wooden stairs of the house like he had never done before, swallowing the steps two by two and literally jumping the last three. Once downstairs, he only had to run along the corridor for ten meters to finally reach the door of the dining room. Then he stopped abruptly, his hand on the handle, the smile fading slowly, leaving room for doubt. His brain was spinning at full speed. The questions seemed not to want to stop; his dreams of glory with all these gifts he had imagined them so many times. He did not hesitate long, however. The impatience of the discovery was much too great for him.
Kuri had come a long way to get below the tree. The specificity of “MR” was to be located across the country to find and recruit the best elements for the company. Each infrastructure, therefore, had its manufacturing specialty. Thus, the factories in the west of the country made rather the upper body: head, and the factories of the East the lower part: body and wheels. Kuri had travelled thousands of kilometres all over the place to get into the assembly line and have it burned and assembled. Burning meant for her to get laser tattooed on all parts of her body the following serial number: 13-4S-A2068M07-513406, an incomprehensible number for those who did not know the company. For the others, this number simply meant that Kuri was part of the 13th million units assembled, that she was the 4th model of the "Kuri" series, and that she was the 513,406th specimen. Once all these formalities had been completed, Kuri was ready to be born in the human world.
The door opened, like that of paradise. Impressed by the imposing stature and rare elegance of the Christmas tree, Harry gazed at its garlands and multi-coloured balls with pleasure. He adored these garlands of light, which flashed with a thousand lights. He could watch them for hours. "The presents at the foot of the tree, were they all for him?" he asked seriously. He was certain that the big red one with the green ribbon was for him. He did not quite know why he had this impression. He was simply hoping with all his heart.
Kuri was ready. Each unit of the "4S" series was mounted, evaluated with a series of fifty common questions, and a physical exercise that consisted of descending a staircase. If the robot passed the test, it was reset, then dismantled and "boxed" for commercialisation. A well-honed circuit meets the draconian standards of the company. Kuri had not encountered any particular problem and would have no memory of this "Birth Test." She found herself a few days later, in a transport truck to travel the 1462.30 km that separated from the house of Harry after being ordered by his parents.
It was Christmas. Harry had discovered with surprise this little smiling white robot who was talking with humans. Harry’s parents were also thrilled. What better gift than a new friend for their son? His father was very disappointed, though. He had just spent two hours mounting the "beast" while the instructions indicated thirty minutes of maximum assembly for the clumsiest of men. These people had dared to write bold and big character on the front of the box. Easy and fast editing! A real scandal! he thought. Quite angry and sweaty, he admired his work with contempt, but he calmed a little when he saw Harry full of curiosity and excitement for Kuri. The face of his son he loved so much to see. It was now necessary to start the “thing.”
Harry pressed the ON button cautiously, lest the little robot collapse like a map castle. Nothing happened for two or three seconds that seemed interminable, then the electric current reached the centrepiece of the whole—the printed circuit that served as her brain, and her whole body started. Both Harry and his father had a back-and-forth motion when the controller was initialised. It was like seeing a dance show! She had taken a few steps to the Michael Jackson dance to see if all her members answered correctly. Harry and his father could not help but sketch a mocking smile for the machine. Her luminescent diodes were flashing in all colours. She looked like the second Christmas tree in the house! She had finished calmly doing the full check-up of her duties and was now ready to enter the human world a second time.
"Hello! I am an intelligent robot who speaks with humans! My name is Kuri. And you?" the robot smiled.
Harry was surprised by the reactivity of the machine, but he was already conquered. It was something incredible! He glanced at his equally impressed father and did not hesitate to answer her.
"Hello," he said to her, intimidated. "I'm Harry."
Kuri, with the webcams that served her for vision, made a quick analysis of the situation: "Human. Child. 1m32 ." She then made a precise photograph of the child. Her facial recognition software would now be able to recognise him whenever she saw him according to the shape of the face, the distance between the eyes, particular signs etc. She let the child know. Kuri activated the screen on her chest and showed the picture of the child with his name; the voice recognition had also done its job properly. A big smile was activated on the face of the machine.
"Nice to meet you, Harry."
Then, after a short moment, her neck swung a few degrees to the left to face Harry’s father.
"Who's the person next to you, Harry?"
"It's daddy!" he answered cheerfully.
Kuri turned her head to Harry as if to integrate the information, analyse it, and prioritise it according to how it worked, and toppled back to the father's face. "Human. Adult. 1m82".
"Hello, sir. What is your name?"
Kuri was able to adapt the speech she gave according to the person in front of her. Harry’s father was equally intimidated; he had to recognise the obvious intelligence of the machine despite his heavy scepticism. He might have been a little underrated and decided to play the game for his son. It was Christmas after all, and this day had to be a beautiful family experience.
"Hello," he said. "My name is George."
Kuri did the same thing, with a photo and a big smile.
After an hour of conversation, George had to admit that Kuri was a cultured and sensible robot. She was a source of information on a variety of topics. From the history of the United States to the exceptional intelligence of dolphins, from car mechanics to piano and guitar learning, from psychology to tax calculations to cult movies of the 1980s, Kuri was a playful and entertaining teacher for the child, a bible for the adult, a kind of life-size Wikipedia. George found it pleasant and comforting to be able to ask all the questions left unanswered for years to someone and for Harry to be able to learn with his new best friend. Kuri also knew how to smile, with a sincere and kind smile that reassures us, the very one we love to see, we humans, on the faces of other humans. At MR, this smile was the essential element of the robotic soul.
"Give me a little smile, Kuri!" had asked George innocently.
Kuri stopped suddenly. She took the time to look in her hard drive for the action she was being asked to do in return. And everything suddenly clicked.
"Are you sure you want me to perform this action, George?" Kuri asked in a neutral and detached voice.
George and Harry looked at each other. The machine stared at George with a cold, detached look, as if put on hold with the pause button on a DVD player. George, made of flesh and blood, confirmed his request not without some apprehension. And the machine did its job without any qualms. After all, it was just information like all the others, transmitted in a binary way by 0 or 1. And her whole body started. She lit up like a Christmas tree. George and Harry did not want to laugh anymore. The internal check-up that Kuri had done had not signalled anything particular. The analysis was over. She positioned herself in front of Harry and his father staring incredulously at her, anxiously awaiting any reaction from the machine. After what might sound like a moment of hesitation for humans, Kuri spoke up.
"Hello! I am an intelligent robot who talks with humans. My name is Kuri. And you?" she said, smiling.