Doggie Day Care Goes Remote
By Brad Frischkorn
Dog owners worried about being away from their pets for hours at a time can rest easy. Advances in IoT (internet of things) technology now allow for all-day virtual communications with their furry friends. even when separated.
Designers and programmers at Taiwan-based Tomofun hope their "Furbo" interactive dog camera catches on. The white, half-meter tall cylindrical unit connects with a cell phone app that lets owners see, talk, and even give treats to their pooches.
Displaying the gizmo for the first time to crowds of interested onlookers at the Interpets Asia Pacific expo held March 31 to April 3 at Tokyo Big Sight, COO Brian Lin said the response has thus far been enthusiastic.
"The Furbo went through seven different versions to arrive in its current form, after pet owners offered feedback on what does and doesn't work," he says. "We originally targeted dog-owning ladies who commute to offices, but all kinds of people seem to think it's a great idea."
The Furbo runs on a standard USB power connection, and is equipped with a 120-degree wide-angle camera, HD quality video capability, night vision, and a two-way built-in microphone and speaker. The device can even dispense a bite-sized doggie treat at the owner's command. All media can be saved, edited and shared.
Furbo is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable, and offers a privacy mode that automatically shuts off power. The unit requires iOS 8.0 or later, and is compatible with Android, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch products.
Furbo is also capable of performing some light security duty. Its night vision feature allows for real-time surveillance, and is especially convenient for pet owners returning home late in the day. Furbo's Barking Alert automatically notifies them whenever their pet becomes startled enough to make significant noise.
"The product allows owners to better understand the habits of their pets, and to ascertain if something might be wrong at home," says Mr. Lin.
The company has already distributed about 500 of the units in Taiwan; sales in Japan kick off in April, and in May in the United States. It should be available by July through Amazon.com, Mr. Lin says. The company is eying a target price of about $199 for U.S. customers.
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