Let Kuri Be Your Friend
The Helpful Little Robot!
The sun shone brightly, a sharp contrast to the chilly wind that nipped at bare skin. It forced shoulders to hunch and steps to quicken as scores of people walked to classrooms, restaurants, or dorms on the university campus. Fall had erupted on the grounds with an explosion of oranges and golds, leaving fallen leaves like so much flotsam to litter pathways and adorn car windshields in the parking lots. In front of the science building, the parking lot was mostly empty save a few cars here and there. Most people had taken advantage of the space to park far away from the tree lined sidewalks to avoid the trees. However, on the far right of the parking lot there was only a single car, parked right underneath a large tree. The leaves were falling rapidly from this particular specimen, creating a brightly hued blanket for the hatchback.
The doors of the science building opened up and out poured several dozen students, some forming groups to head to the library or other public spaces while others headed to their cars. On the steps were several people milling around as they discussed plans and the previous class.
"Have you gotten any farther with your project, Diana?" A young man asked one of his companions, a woman who was currently wrapping a black scarf around her neck. Amber eyes flicked up to express a baleful expression as she shook her head. The man laughed incredulously. "I know we've got until the semester ends, but it's been three weeks since it was assigned."
"I know, okay, I know." Diana huffed, tapping the baby blue tips of her gloved fingers against her brown leather messenger bag. "I just haven't found any inspiration. But it's coming! I know it is. Which is why I gotta decline going to the movies and heading back home. See you guys later."
Diana waved to her friends as she walked away, their chorus of goodbye's at her back as she walked briskly to her car, eyes widening then narrowing fiercely as she scowled once finding her car covered in leaves.
"God, why did I park here again?" The furious muttering accompanied similarly frenzied sweeps of gloved hands cleaning off the windshield. "Right, because I stupid enough to hit every single snooze on my alarm!"
The sweeping motions slowed to a halt when she could finally see her reflection, gazing through the glass to look at the stack of notebooks and wires in her passenger seat. "I still don't know what I'm going to do for this project," Diana whispered. "It's senior year. I've got to go all the way with this!"
With a heavy breath Diana opened her door and climbed in, turning on the car and turning on the heat to as low as it got before it hit the cooling feature. She drove back to her dorm, which wasn't far but she had decided that morning it was too chilly to be stomping across the campus to the building on the outskirts. The drive took fifteen minutes with the high volume of traffic, but then Diana finally parked her car, gathering up everything on her passenger seat and exiting. Her room was on the third floor, the second door down from the elevator and yet her arms still burned slightly from holding all her things in her arms by the time she got into the room.
Dumping the load on her desk, Diana dropped heavily into the computer chair, toeing off her ankle boots and nudging them under her bed. Turning her head she stared at the two large screen monitors, currently off, and the cork board above them that had sketches and notes pinned by thumbtacks. The centerpiece was the actual page detailing her assignment: Create a robot to aide your everyday life. Rough sketches of robots from popular shows or comics were meant to give her inspiration and instead only filled her head with dread at the thought of how much coding would need to go into those creations.
"Alright," Diana muttered under her breath. She leaned back into her seat, stretching her back, elongating her spine and stretching her hands up to the ceiling. Swiftly bringing her arms down she booted up her computer and leaned forward with a determined grin stretching across her face. "Let's do this!"
What she actually ended up doing was playing Big Hero Six on her computer while she painted her toes and snapped pictures of the striped pedicure to put on her Instagram. Diana sighed gustily, looking over to where the band of heroes were fighting the villain. She eyed the sleek armor encasing the giant robot, sweet as the marshmallows he resembled, Baymax.
Diana chuckled, eyeing the robot fondly. "What if I made you for my project, huh?" she asked the screen. "I bet I'd get a great score. A caregiver... a..." She trailed off as she suddenly become hyper focused on the movie. Watching with keen detail as Hiro learned to rely on his friends, and learn how to let go of loved ones long past.
"Huh," Diana mused, peeking back up at her cork board. Blindly reaching to her left, she searched around until her hand made contact with looping wire and flat paper, grabbing it and bringing it over. She nabbed a graphite pencil from her solo cup full of writing instruments and placed the blunted tip on the page. Rather than starting off trying to create a shape, she wrote down a list on the left side of the page.
"Something you need in everyday life," she spoke aloud, brushing errant curls from her face and tucking them back into the messy bun atop her head. "Maybe a pedicure?"
A look down at the candy cane stripes of her left foot and the messy stars on her right foot had her scrunching her nose before shaking her head. "No. Something for dictation? Yeah... a memory maker! Or a memory recorder. Something for a camera?"
She was on to something now. Her generation was obsessed with capturing the moments of their lives that varied from the grand to the mundane; to prove their existence on this earth. They shared their memories with family and friends. They wanted to feel connected, to always have the ones they held dearly close in their lives by any means possible.
"Oh my God!" Diana gasped delightedly. "A friend! Everyone needs a friend in their everyday life! That's it, I have my project!"
Diana leapt from the chair and moved over to her box of carefully placed wires, gears, and parts. She started to reach in before she froze and a look of consternation crossed her face.
"How in the world am I going to start this? What is this robot going to look like? What are all the functions it's capable of?" Diana muttered to herself, leaning away from the box and crossing her arms with a huff.
"I said everyone needs a friend. So... this robot is going to need a personality." She turned back to her desk and leaned over it, grabbing the pencil again to scribble notes and thoughts down.
A companion robot. Friendly personality needed. Like Siri? Alexa? No, more personalized. Might possibly be used for emotional support. Functions: Camera? Recordings?
Diana hummed thoughtfully, tapping her fingers against the wooden desk as she looked back up at her cork board, and then at the cover of the Big Hero Six DVD case. Each of these robots had one specific purpose in mind, that eventually grew into a larger, individual personality. Baymax was intended as a sort of medical innovation, so he was focused on the health of his patient/owner. R2-D2 was a flyer, with a sassy personality. Dummy was... a mess. What would her robot be? What would it be named?
"Hmm... most robots have an acronym used for their name. So what would be a good name?" Diana mumbled to herself.
"It's a friend. So, then, kind. Kindhearted. Uh—Unique? Well, maybe the name can come later." For now, Diana finally had a plan, and perhaps a plan of what her little robot friend could do.
It took a long time, practically the whole semester up until the very night before. Long night with little sleep, countless scrapped ideas and mangled lines of code, numerous balled up pages with mathematical equations and possible designs. Diana was thankful to her friends who not only checked on her to make sure she ate at least twice a day and slept, but also understood when she denied them any information about her project until it would be revealed in their Robotics Specializations class.
At four in the morning, four hours before her class, Diana finally completed her robot. K.U.R.I the Kindhearted Unique Robotic Interface. She was about knee high to Diana, rounded and classic monochrome. Her eyes were round, shiny lenses that could expand or contract; the camera features Diana slaved over for three weeks straight to record videos and take pictures that would be sent to any database the user plugged in to. Kuri only had one wheel at the bottom to help her move around, but she had excellent maneuverability. Diana took a step back from where Kuri sat currently, not yet turned on. With trembling fingers, Diana reached forward and tapped a discreet button on the back of Kuri's head. A chime sounded, and Kuri's eyes lit up before contracting and expanding, her eyes glowing a deep blue from the dozen or so LED lights.
Diana took a deep breath. "Kuri?"
Kuri's head swiveled around to stare at Diana, then moved three-hundred sixty degrees to take in her surroundings before landing on Diana again. "Hello Diana! My name is Kuri. What would you like to do today? It is early. Shall we eat breakfast?" The voice, while noticeably electronic, was light and almost chirpy. She had a friend record her voice to use for her project and tweaked it to a higher pitch.
Diana breathed out tremulously, the breath turning to small giggles that became delighted peals of laughter. "She's alive!"
"I am currently turned on. My battery is at 100 percent. Shall I turn on power saving features, Diana?" Kuri confirmed.
"No, Kuri. Kuri, let's run some tests," Diana choked out, breathing deeply to overcome the hysteria that threatened to bubble up. "Kuri, play me a song."
"Sure. What are you in the mood for Diana?" Kuri asked.
"Something old school... peppy. From the 80s," Diana clarified. She had uploaded her entire music library to Kuri, so there would be a lot to choose from. The test would be to see if Kuri could correctly complete her request.
"I have just the thing," Kuri assured her. From the discreet speaker system placed in he lower black portion of her body streamed the sounds of Nocera as she sung about the summer.
"Perfect!" Diana clapped happily. "Now Kuri, take a picture of me."
Kuri's eyes glowed white to signify a flash, going twice before flashing brightly one last time, a click signifying the picture was taken. Kuri would have instantly uploaded it to her Google account. Diana whipped out her phone and opened up her app to see her recent photos. And there she was, hair frazzled and haphazardly braided into a fishtail, lounge sweats two sizes too big and her baseball t-shirt falling off one shoulder. A warm glow filled her as she viewed the photo taken by her amazing little Kuri.
"How do I look?" Diana asked Kuri.
The music paused as Kuri replied, "Pretty!" The music resumed until Diana called for it to stop.
"Kuri, do you want to go somewhere with me?" Diana asked the robot.
"I love seeing new places." Kuri responded. "Where are we going Diana? Please remember, you have a final at eight. It is three hours and forty-five minutes from now."
Diana beamed, taking in the success of her test run. She couldn't wait to show Kuri to the world. "I know Kuri. That's where we are going to go. I am taking you to class with me to meet new friends. Doesn't that sound exciting?"
"I love making new friends!" Kuri exclaimed, rolling forwards a few feet and then back to her spot to convey excitement. "Do you think they will like me?"
"Oh Kuri," Diana chuckled warmly. "They are going to love you."