I am in retirement living in a retirement community and the thought of having a furry companion has crossed my mind. But if I got a dog, I’d have to walk it everyday and scoop its waste. If i got a cat, I wouldn’t have to walk it, but I’d still need a pooper scooper. And there would also be shed fur all over the place. Both would need a vet visit at least once or twice a year and they definitely need to be fed. And so I hesitate to get a furry companion for now.
However, Sony and Elephant Robotics (ER) have a solution for me. Sony came out with an AI dog called Aibo 1999 and now 20 years later, ER has developed MarsCat, the world’s first bionic cat. Its kind of cute, but it’s definitely not realistic enough to replace a real live cat.
However, MarsCat is pre-programmed with cat-like mannerisms. Besides walking, running, sleeping, sitting, and stretching, it will bat at toys, bite its nails, knead or accept chin rubs…so cute. It can be programmed to respond to your call and according to Joey Song, CEO of ER, MarsCat will recognize the difference between ‘come’ and ‘come, here’ commands as well as 20 other key words. It is definitely interactive and can feel you, hear you and comfort you and make a good companion according to ER’s website.
MarsCat operates with six capacitive touch sensors and its nose houses a 5MP camera to help it ‘see’. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3 (low cost, credit-card sized computer) and you will be able to get at least three hours of battery life with constant interactions with MarsCat. You can get up to five hours on low usage like when it’s lying down or sitting and its still powered on.
Your interactions with MarsCat will supposedly shape its personality says ER. For instance, if you interact with it by talking to it a lot, MarsCat will respond to you by meowing more often.
You will be able to change MarsCat’s behavior yourself by programming its actions using an open API (application program interface) and its Raspberry Pi, Song told The Verge. MarsCat comes in white, gray, ginger, and black.
If you want to back MarsCat you may do so by investing $649…that’s for the first 100 backers and you will be receiving MarsCat sometime in March 2020. When it does go on sale to the general public next year it will cost $1,299 which is a lot less than Sony’s Aibo robot dog which runs $2,899.99.
Robotic pets aren’t cheap, at least not for now.