by Otilia Drăgan

Forget autonomous vehicles, there’s something even cooler around the corner – a robotic pony that not only can be ridden just like a real one, but is even able to interact in a clever way. Xiaomi-backed Chinese carmaker Xpeng is the one who’s introducing it on the market, and it’s probably safe to say it will be a big hit. 6 photos

Robotic representations of animals aren’t new, with the most famous one probably being Spot, the yellow dog created by Boston Dynamics. Launched last year, the friendly-looking dog delighted fans around the world with his abilities, such as dancing or picking up stuff off the floor – that is, when it wasn’t busy detecting radiation or taking part in military exercises. 

But this new pony takes things further, by blurring the lines between a robot and an autonomous vehicle for kids. A creation of Xpeng Robotics, a new subsidiary of the Xpeng car manufacturing company, this adorable four-legged creature (with a barely-noticeable unicorn) is actually rideable. And, from what we can see in the launch video, its walk is remarkably similar to a pony gait. 

As you would expect, this robot integrates high-tech that enables it to move around, detect and avoid objects, and even make its way on various types of terrain – similarly to an actual autonomous vehicle. In addition to visually aided motion control and intelligent navigation, the cute unicorn is equipped with “target detection” features, which probably makes it able to fetch things, like a dog (even though it’s a unicorn). 

Xpeng’s new pony also gets as close to being a companion as possible, thanks to its ability to respond not just to a person’s voice and facial expressions, but even to body language and tactile sensations, which sounds pretty impressive. Xpeng Robotics, presented as the Chinese company’s “future mobility ecosystem company”, undoubtedly integrated AI technologies based on those developed for autonomous vehicles. Earlier this year, Xpeng showcased its autonomous driving assistance NGP (Navigation Guided Pilot) function.

After launching its first G3 electric SUV back in 2018, the Chinese carmakerhas advanced quickly, and, with this new subsidiary launched, it looks like it has even more ambitious plans for the future.

Its robotic unicorn (no fun name, unfortunately) has only been teased so far, so we’ll have to wait for more details. One thing’s for sure – it would make one the best Christmas gifts ever, too bad it’s just for kids. 

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