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This is not the tech unicorn you are looking for... and other stories
Another weekly digest of strangeness from around the world that you may have missed
Roundup Welcome to our weekly conclave of chaos and confusion as we collate another bunch of odd and unusual tales from the past seven days and present them to you in the manner of a small and grubby child handing a bunch of crumpled, hand-picked flowers to a slightly intoxicated aunt.
Little White WTF?
We commence with a frankly unnervingly dystopian vision of the future from China, where electric car startup XPeng has decided to move into the toy sector with a new, uncanny-valley-dwelling offering they call the Little White Dragon. Despite the name, this bizarre... thing is designed to vaguely resemble a unicorn, which for some reason is wearing an undersized crash helmet.
In truth, it looks they have repurposed an injured motorcyclist a la RoboCop, doubtless due to a deceptively worded job contract the hapless biker was persuaded to sign years ago by tricky corporate lawyers. It is honestly impossible to tell.
In the promotional video which accompanies this manga-influenced horror, it is shown playing with a child in a sort of barren, post-apocalyptic landscape, while a list of its features flash up in the corner of the screen. These could be interpreted as sensible qualities for what will doubtless become a form of robot babysitter, but they inevitably sound sinister given its superficial resemblance to Boston Dynamics' objectively not-cute Spot robot.
So while XPeng might feel proud to expound on Little White Dragon's "multi-mode perception", "object recognition", "multi-terrain crossing" and, most disturbingly, "target tracking", these do also sound worryingly like phrases that would have appeared in a sales manual for ED-209.
Its creators also claim that it is rideable, which inevitably brings to mind the prospect of a child trotting across that post-apocalyptic wasteland on the back of its soothing, impassive plastic companion in a scene which could have come from the pen of Philip K Dick or the nightmarish military/cartoon landscapes of artist Simon Stålenhag.
XPeng have not yet revealed a release date or price for the Little White Dragon, but it will probably cost you your soul.
That nonsense might work in China, but I wouldn't try it in Florida
Now over to Florida, where for once we are not going to talk about someone getting arrested while drunk and naked (although we very easily could have done).
One of Florida's greatest natural resources is, of course, gawping out-of-towners trying to interact with unimpressed wildlife, a seemingly endless source of fame and notoriety for the state in these social media-dominated times.
One such mark was travel blogger Dev Langer, who thought it might be fun to try and get a close-up of an alligator she nicknamed "George" with a small camera drone. What with the drone being a small, buzzing thing that looks like a large insect and the 'gator being an irascible, perpetually hungry reptile made entirely out of teeth, muscle and attitude, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, only the most obvious thing. Langer filmed George on her phone while the drone was flown close to its head, at which point the irritable alligator whipped its head sideways and snatched the irritating machine out of the air, crunching it in its jaws and rendering it considerably less useful to an aspiring travel blogger.
Unfortunately for George, who is frankly blameless in this whole affair, while crushing the drone he bit through its battery casing, which led to it exploding in his mouth and emitting a large, billowing cloud of smoke.
Film of the doubtless astonished 'gator sitting in a swamp with a huge plume of smoke coming out of its head subsequently went viral on social media, presumably leading to Langer receiving the boost to her profile she craved, but also to a lot of people wondering how it affected the poor alligator.
We at The Reg are very much on team alligator in this case, but given that they can regrow their tails, live with missing limbs, and survive wounds that would kill lesser beings while living in the least hygienic environment imaginable, we reckon he'll probably be alright.
Barca boss's inscrutable pig tweet
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman left football fans scratching their heads this week when he posted a short video on his personal Twitter account featuring popular children's cartoon character Peppa Pig then deleted it shortly afterwards.
The video in question, which was entitled "Bonus Peppa Pig Episodes and Activities", was over an hour long, but the tweet was deleted within 30 minutes, leading puzzled Barca fans to wonder as to its meaning.
Koeman has had a tricky time at Barcelona since taking over last year, with indifferent form, attempts to cut the club's immense wage bill, and the departure of talismanic Argentinian striker Lionel Messi leading to criticism of the former Dutch international defender and Southampton and Everton manager. Indeed, some of the criticism has come from his own players, with Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanić describing Koeman's management style as "very strange" after he was left out of the Barca team and subsequently sent out on loan to Turkish side Beşiktaş.
Bafflement over the tweet reached such a pitch (hah!) that athletics website Sportbible even speculated that the video – which featured the arrival of new character Molly Mole – was a coded message to a mole within the club who had been responsible for a series of embarrassing leaks, including the public release of Lionel Messi's contract.
With theories abounding over the meaning of the porcine message, Koeman eventually felt compelled to speak out and reveal the reasoning behind the enigmatic tweet.
"Sometimes the little ones of the family want to make themselves heard via granddad's social media account," he tweeted, accompanied by a picture of the Barca boss holding his two grandchildren and the hashtag #peppapig.
Sometimes the little ones of the family want to make themselves heard via granddad’s social media account 😁🙈🐽 #grandchildren #peppapig pic.twitter.com/JoasgDQd2h— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) September 5, 2021
We know football is a big industry now, but it is possible to read too much into it.
Have a good weekend, all. ®