'And one last thing' has become a common thing at tech launch events, where companies unveil a surprise new gadget right at the end. At the unveiling of the Mi Pad 5, Mi Mix 4 and some new smart home products, people were hoping Xiaomi was about to unveil its first car; instead, we met CyberDog.
Xiaomi's CyberDog is... a robot dog, as the name suggests. It's a mechanical canine that looks a lot like Boston Dymnamics' famous Spot, evoking feelings of fear and respect with its svelte mechanical design, collection of front-facing camera sensors and long tech spec list.
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The programmed pooch use Nvidia's Jetson Xavier, a form of chip designed for AI autonomous creatures, and was also developed with help from Intel which assisted in a depth-sensing module to avoid obstacles. It weighs 3kg, has a 3.2 meter-per-second max speed, boasts 6 microphones, uses motors with a 32nm maximum torque, is topped with a large array of camera and imaging sensors and even has 128GB on-board storage.
According to Xiaomi's presentation, the machine mutt can connect to your smartphone, has algorithms to detect and understand motion as well as speech and was designed to look like a dog. It seems AI is used a lot.
So what do all these tech words and specs mean? Well, as well as showing us a video, Xiaomi did an on-stage presentation. And that's where the CyberDog turned from Boston Dynamics super-smart potentially-future-humanity-ending Spot, to a cute little Furby.
Do a jump, CyberDog
Adverts are designed to make a product seem cooler than it actually is, and Xiaomi following its flashy intro video with a showcase of CyberDog's tricks in real-time really humanized – or 'dogized' – the pup.
CyberDog performed tricks like slowly rotating to view who was talking. And doing a weird little jiggle, as if trying to shake off water that wasn't there. And it sat up on its hind legs and clapped, at the behest of the controller. Oh, and it did a backflip, though CyberDog looked as surprised as anyone else that it didn't fall apart afterwards.
So, CyberDog isn't a super-smart mechanical assistant which will prowl the streets with you, clean your house, or help you survive in a post-apocalypse when all the machines (except CD, of course) rise up. If you're looking for that, you're barking up the wrong tree.
It's a glorified toy, one that's going on sale in China soon for CNY 9,999 (about $1,500, £1,100, AU$2,100). It'll entertain your kids and even make your adult visitors laugh – and it really does look fun to play around with. But don't think the future, of robotized assistants and machine-learning puppies, is here just yet.
This isn't Xiaomi's first foray into toy-like devices, and it's shown off some cute little robot-like tech in the past. So maybe in the future, we'll see legitimate robot pets from the company – and hopefully a cat one too, since they're better than dogs.