Losing a pet is hard. For many people, myself included, it's like losing a member of the family. Grief makes people do funny things. I get it. That's why I kind of understand what this completely unhinged, nearly 9-minute-long video fromis trying to do. Still, in the end, it's just one of the most bizarre, sad and genuinely upsetting attempts at marketing I've ever seen.
Based on a true story, this video is, ostensibly, trying to show you how Nomi --(which looks like a sphere on your dash with small cat ears) listens and adapts to your habits, making your life more convenient. Instead, it plummets to the bottom of the uncanny valley by ordering these poor bereaved cat parents a condolence gift after their beloved special-needs cat passes away.
I'm especially sensitive and maybe have a bit of a hair-trigger (there's a reason why I have The Dodo blocked on every social media platform), so I showed this advertisement to several friends and colleagues.
"I actually made [significant other] watch it. She said if her car ordered her a condolence gift, she'd make me take it out back and shoot it," a colleague told me. "If Siri pulled that [expletive], I'd toss my phone in the fire and live off the grid," another told me. "Did nobody understand how sad and creepy this entire scenario was before they spent (presumably a lot of) money on it?" a relative responded. Even my wife chimed in: "This feels way worse than when they had hologram Tupac at Coachella. If I were that cat, I'd haunt these people, and not in a nice way."
There are a few things that are left unclear in the video. First, how exactly did the AI cat know that the real cat had died? Was it because the man shook his phone furiously? Next, did the AI cat use the bereaved cat parents' own credit card to buy them this horrifying condolence gift? How did it get approval for that or did it act on its own? Finally, how would Nio expect the US market to react to something like this? (Spoiler: probably not well.)
Nio's representatives didn't immediately respond to my request for comment.
Of course, it's completely possible that there is something significant that's being lost in translation, or that doesn't really transition appropriately from one culture to another. Maybe in China, this is actually super-sweet and heartwarming. But for me, if this is the future of in-car technology, then I'm going to live in a cave.