MarsCat, made by Elephant Robotics, looks a lot like a cat, but it’s not realistic enough that you’ll be fooled into thinking it’s a replacement for a furry feline that might already wander around your house. But it seems as if Elephant Robotics is trying to give MarsCat a lot of cat-like mannerisms, and it can apparently do things like bat at toys, stretch its front two feet out, and even accept chin rubs! Aw.
MarsCat comes in white, gray, ginger, and black, and it’s outfitted with six capacitive touch sensors, a 5MP camera in its nose to help it “see,” and is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3. Elephant Robotics tells The Verge that you’ll get between two to three hours of battery life with “constant interactions” and up to five hours for low usage, such as when MarsCat is lying down or sitting while still powered on.
Elephant Robotics says your interactions with MarsCat will shape its personality. For example, if you talk with MarsCat a lot, MarsCat will apparently meow at you more often in response. The company also says MarsCat can recognize 20 keywords, and CEO Joey Song tells The Verge that MarsCat will recognize specific commands different people might use, such as saying “come” instead of “come here.”
A note on crowdfunding:
Crowdfunding is a chaotic field by nature: companies looking for funding tend to make big promises. According to a study run by Kickstarter in 2015, roughly 1 in 10 “successful” products that reach their funding goals fail to actually deliver rewards. Of the ones that do deliver, delays, missed deadlines, or overpromised ideas mean that there’s often disappointment in store for those products that do get done.
The best defense is to use your best judgment. Ask yourself: does the product look legitimate? Is the company making outlandish claims? Is there a working prototype? Does the company mention existing plans to manufacture and ship finished products? Has it completed a Kickstarter before?
And remember: you’re not necessarily buying a product when you back it on a crowdfunding site.
If you want to change the behaviors of MarsCat yourself, Elephant Robotics says you’ll be able to program actions for it using an open API and its Raspberry Pi. At the moment, there isn’t a place where developers can upload and share their programmed actions, but Song tells The Verge that there should be a place on Elephant Robotics’ website for that by the time MarsCat starts shipping to backers.
If you want to back MarsCat, it will cost $649 for the first 100 backers, and that cost will go up in increasing amounts depending on how many people have already backed it. If you’re one of those first 100 backers, Elephant Robotics estimates it will deliver MarsCat in March 2020, with later backers getting their MarsCats later in 2020.
When MarsCat officially goes on sale next year, Elephant Robotics says it will cost $1,299. That may seem expensive — comparatively, Sony’s Aibo robot dog costs $2,899.99 — but robot pets just don’t come cheap. At least not yet.