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Meet MarsCat: The autonomous robot cat that just wants to do its own thing

Cuddle systems engaged.

Elephant Robotics

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

We've seen robotic pets before, but MarsCat from Elephant Robotics takes things further by being the world's first fully autonomous robot cat. The idea is that, rather than give your robot pet commands via voice or touch for it to do things, once MarsCat is activated, it'll simply act like a regular cat, doing its own thing as and when it wants. 

It's currently on Kickstarter where it's raised over $100,000 after beginning with a $20,000 goal. We took a look at it at this year's CES trade show in Las Vegas and can confirm that, yes, it does actually exist. 

As always, please note that CNET's reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site's policies -- in this case, Kickstarter -- to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.

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MarsCat's shape is distinctly feline, but there's no escaping the fact it looks less like a real cat and more like the product of a Honda R&D session. The lack of fur is a particular giveaway, although it looks like it has a soft-touch silicon skin, which I'm sure will feel just as good when you smush your face into its belly during cuddle time. 

While the company claims that MarsCat is fully autonomous, it's still all about the interactions. There are various voice commands you can give it, such as "run," "stop," "quiet" or "come here." And unlike real cats, it'll actually respond to those commands rather than completely ignore your existence and do whatever the hell it wants regardless.

It's touch-responsive too, so it'll respond to head scratches or back strokes. It can also recognise and interact with objects (cat toys, for example), people nearby and even "play with real cats." That last one, however, seems very much dependant on whether your cat wants to play with a robotic version of itself. There's a good chance it might freak out and go hide under the bed until MarsCat goes away. 

Pledges that will net you a MarsCat start at $649 (about £500 or AU$945) on the Kickstarter page, with shipping due to start in March this year. The company told us it's also working on a charging base station that will allow MarsCat to automatically go and charge itself when it needs to and a dog version, which I can only assume will be akin to Sony's Aibo robot dog