This connected ball allows a dog to initiate a video call with their human

·2-min read
DogPhone takes the form of a connected ball toy fitted with an accelerometer.

Creating a technology that allows a dog to communicate with their owner at any time, from a distance, by launching a video call itself, is no longer just in the realm of science fiction. A researcher from the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, has developed a mind-blowing invention consisting of a connected ball that, when activated by the dog, immediately sends an alert to the pet parent's computer, wherever they are, to open the lines of communication and starts a video call.

DogPhone is a project led by Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, from the University of Glasgow, a specialist in animal-machine interaction. It allows dogs to reach their human by video call whenever they want, simply by handling a ball specially dedicated to this purpose. The idea is to be able to soothe pets suffering from anxiety when they find themselves alone at home, especially after various lockdown periods during which they have become used to being in the company of their pet parent all day long.

While these days there exist already a multitude of tools that facilitate talking or even playing with one's pet from a distance, this may be the very first device that gives the animal control of the situation and the ability to decide "to call" their human, when they want or need to.

The technology takes the form of a ball in which an accelerometer has been placed, which allows the dog to interact with humans. As soon as the dog picks it up with their mouth or starts to play with it, it automatically sends an alert to their human's computer, prompting the start of a call. Once the video call has been launched, the dog and their human parent can see each other and communicate.

DogPhone is the result of a collaboration between Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas and researchers based at Aalto University in Finland. Her dog Zack is of course the very first beneficiary. In the first two days, Zack made no less than 18 calls, half of which were actually "accidental" calls because the dog was sleeping on the ball, causing it to move incorrectly. After a quick adjustment of the accelerometer sensitivity, the rate stabilized at about 5 calls per day. During some of them, the dog approached the screen and even brought toys near the camera, as if he wanted to play with his human.

In the future, interactive toys inspired by this technology could be useful for animals suffering from separation anxiety.

Check out a video of DogPhone: youtu.be/LLNrNAMnA6M

David Bénard

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