Smart technology turns dogs and cats into iPets

23 Apr 2015

We are simple folk, us humans. We desire nothing but water, bread and gadgets. That’s especially true when it comes to our pets, whose desires are limited to just water and bread. Again it’s us that want the gadgets.

There is simply no excuse for anyone living into today’s mobile-focused world to deny their pets the full, ‘i’ experience.

If we run with fitness trackers, they should run with fitness trackers. If we have smart cameras poking out of every device we can carry, they should have cameras too. And if we have smartphones, they should have less advanced walkie-talkies.

For our pets are mere reflections of us. And we are really weird. The best example of this is when your cat sits on your laptop while you’re watching YouTube.

Your cat isn’t the weirdo, your cat is merely sitting on a warm bed in the full gaze of its owner. You are weird. Point a finger at yourself and say “I am weird”. It’s best to accept this, now we can move on.

There are numerous ways to marry your love of gadgets with your love of pets, we’ll list just a few below. Please note, I own a few dogs, so this is a bit canine heavy…

Activity monitors

We humans can no longer run a mile without checking for our stats. How fast was I going? What is my heart rate? Did I burn off the calories of that muffin I devoured at lunch? In truth, our pets should not be any different.

The FitBark is the best-named product in this piece, so lets lead with it. Featuring a three-axis accelerometer, LED display, Bluetooth technology and no subscription fee, the FitBark just pops on your dog’s collar. It’s one-size-fits-all (always a seller) and comes in five colours.

“We asked ourselves a very simple question. Are we doing our best to make our dog happy and healthy?” says the company. What it came up with was this:

It costs around US$99, meaning you can finally monitor your dog’s activity, ensuring (s)he burns off enough calories to stay as trim and desirable as you.

For just US$79 you can also get a Wi-Fi base station, turning your wireless router into an open hub for any FitBarkers nearby, which would make you the weirdest voyeur in history.

The Whistle Activity Monitor does much the same thing, but only comes in one boring colour. Boo. However, it does have a far better promo video, so maybe go for this one instead.

Trackers, gotta have the trackers

But what if you don’t want to know how many calories Rover burned while unsuccessfully chasing that pigeon earlier? What if you just want to know where he went after realising the embarrassment of his ways?

Never fear, because that’s an area where gadgets can come in handy. The Tagg GPS tracker – made by the same company behind Whistle – is pretty much exactly what you think it is. You attach the device to your pet’s collar and the monitor works by sending alerts to your phone.

It actually monitors their heat and activity too, but the GPS element is the clincher – it costs around US$69.

Of course, if you’re more of a buyer from the top shelf, then, as with any GPS, lets look at Garmin.The Astro 320 Handheld is “the premier high-sensitivity satellite tracking system for sporting dogs”.

It’s evidently targeted at people who use dogs for work, hunting and finding things in the woods. It looks pretty nice, has a little map for you to monitor your dog’s movements live, and has ‘bark detection’, which is beyond cool. The price is US$499, which is not beyond cool.

Smart breeding

On St Patrick’s Day we received a wondrous email, telling us of a solution to society’s biggest problem, that being our occassional inabiity to stare at dogs and cats as they give birth. The Addik Pet would change all that.

It’s a wireless sensor-type thing that was billed as being able to capture live births for you while you’re away. How? Well its “intelligent membrane system” senses fluid and sends alerts to your phone. Because fluids.

So it alerts you and films it for you to live stream. It has raised less than 2pc of its funding goal on Kickstarter, which seems like a lot. Here’s a terrifying video to explain… less.

The ability to open doors

The Power Pet door is actually pretty cool. It’s a collar/door gizmo, and when your pet gets near the back door the slot automatically opens, before closing behind them.

It’s not really a product that would prove prominent in Europe, seems more like it would work in the US. But it is a decent invention all the same. There are loads of versions of this, so prices will vary a lot. This actually seems like the kind of invention that could work well with us humans.

Power Pet Door

The Power Pet Door is a nifty device

A leg up with potty training

The Pavlovian Puppy Potty Trainer is a thing. Yep, a Pavlovian way to teach your pet to stop wrecking the carpet. Packed with sensors, the pad recognises when your dog has had a pee and, even when you’re not around, rewards it for ‘going on the mat’.

“When the dispenser delivers a bite-size reward (with or without the optional chime for additional reinforcement), dogs quickly learn where it is safe to go to the bathroom.”

There’s even a handheld remote to let the owner “train” the dog. It costs around US$100 and, despite its ridiculous premise, isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Pets wearables Pavlovian potty trainer

Pavlovian Potty Trainer, which wins the prize for best picture

Doggy talk to human talk, because science

A headset worn by dogs that translates their thoughts into approximate human speech – Sweden-based company ST raised over double their target funds on Indiegogo to develop the No More Woof device a couple of years ago.

No More Woof uses a Raspberry Pi computer with EEG recorders and a speaker that takes ‘iconic current flows’ in the dog’s brain and translates them into roughly human language.

Pets wearables No More Woof

No More Woof Image via ST’s Indiegogo campaign

ST said the US$65 device can detect and differentiate between three types of dog thought: tired, hungry and curious.

Next up, Latin.

Talking to your pets when you leave the house

Pet Chatz, which is basically a baby monitor for dogs, can “reward them with snacks and sniffs they love”. I could explain, but, here’s a video instead…

There’s also the rival Pet Cube. This is a cube, so it’s miles better. It costs around US$200, but it can be used on the Apple Watch.

Pets wearables Pet Cube

Anything with an Apple Watch app must be good, right?

Finally for the cats – lasers. Loads of lasers

FroliCat is company that makes loads of electronic devices that basically melt your cat’s brain. One roams around your house, teaching cats to “pounce”, one shoots lasers out for them to chase, one dangles toys for them to beat up and another, well, it shoots out lasers again.

Here’s a review of the rotating laser light. Because it’s for cats, there’s an immediate flaw. That being cats are evil geniuses, so they quickly work out that the big white device in the middle of the room should be challenged.

Dog and cat selfie image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic