Some deeply disturbing robots have made appearances on this site over the years, from alien-like swimming creatures to back-flipping androids. And yet none have been as unsettling as this interactive animatronic piece of roadkill called the Flatcat.
What is it exactly? The name Flatcat seems self-explanatory, but at the same time, it raises hundreds of questions about why this thing exists. At its core, the Flatcat is an ultra-simplified robot that reacts to touch by folding, twisting, and rolling its body into different shapes. It doesn’t appear as if it can easily locomote; it has no legs, but like an inchworm it seems it can rhythmically contract and expand its body to slowly creep across the floor. In other words, it can probably follow you—or hunt you down—if it so chooses.
To make Flatcat more endearing so people will actually want to touch and interact with it, its creators at a Berlin-based robotics startup called Jetpack Cognition Lab have wrapped it in soft, fluffy fur so that it looks more like a cat—or at least a cat that somehow survived repeated run-ins with a semi-truck. In reality, Flatcat is more like like a ThiccFurrySnake, or maybe a FlattenedCaterpillar. Calling it a cat is certainly a stretch.
Until robots are adept at cooking dinner and serving drinks, consumer adoption of automatons is going to remain limited to robovacs and robopets in the near future. But even Sony has had a hard time convincing people to drop more than $1,700 (plus monthly fees to unlock all its features) on the adorable robot dog Aibo it brought back from the dead in 2017. There’s no word on if Flatcat will ever be made available to consumers, though the company will happily collect your email address on its site to keep you in the loop. At least Aibo looks like something you’d actually want to pet, not a creature you’d immediately dispose of with a rolled up magazine.