There’s always fun technology for pet owners at CES, and 2022 is no different. But a handful of gadgets this year are concerned with treating dogs and cats not just as cuddly, furry friends but as intelligent animals with their own processes, emotions, and even a desire to express themselves.
At the most basic level – which means it’s a lot more advanced than a few years ago – we have Catlog, which is a smart cat collar and weight sensing platform that helps owners keep track of cats’ daily movements.
The collar senses movement and vibrations, which are associated with “cat-like behavior” such as sleeping, sitting there, washing their claws, eating and drinking — and even moving around, which is what some cats have been known to do. All these actions (including hairballs) are sent to you through the IoT hub live. And you can look at your cat’s day to see when and how often it played, slept, etc.
This essential aspect of shedding light on a pet’s daily life when they are not around is a good first step to understanding that they are more than just a cuddling accessory – they are there and doing things even when you’re not looking.
Invoxia takes things a little further with its smart collar that tracks your dog’s location as well as their heart and respiratory status. Now, I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this, but given the advances we’ve made in smartwatches and other devices that can detect adverse events or conditions in humans, it doesn’t seem at all implausible that something similar could be whipped to dogs.
Animals suffer from heart and lung problems just like any other animal with these organs, and unfortunately some breeds are predisposed to them too. Sure, you can take them to the vet twice a year so you can listen to your dog’s breathing, but why not also have a collar that will alert you if something seems to be off? As with ourselves, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Far from just detecting physiological signs, we find Inupathy, a backpack worn by dogs that the company claims can also detect a variety of psychological conditions. Now, let’s not give too much credit here, as human-centered devices along these lines have very mixed results as well. But Langualess, which makes the backpack, explains their work as follows:
The animal’s heart usually beats with a gentle rhythm, but it speeds up when the animal begins to feel nervous. This change in rhythm is caused by sympathetic nervous activity. Through our independent research, we have found that it is possible to estimate the mental state of dogs in more detail by analyzing heart rate variability in depth.
Heart rate analysis is of course a field with a long and rich history, and one with many findings that it misses. But it’s not unreasonable to think that you can tell if a dog is temporarily relaxed or excited, or has been in a state of anger or anxiety for an extended period. The company’s main technological advance has been the creation of a sensor and a local circuit that reliably detects and differentiates an animal’s heart rate.
There are of course more outward tidbits, such as tail position, posture, and vocalizations, but not every dog is very emotional and anyway, so why not add more data to the mix?
And while we’re at it, why not let your dog talk to you directly? That’s the idea with FluentPet, which makes a set of buttons to teach your dog to express themselves using human vocabulary. kind of.
Visibly inspired by the social media stardom of button-feeding Stella and Bunny canines, whose seemingly coherent sayings indicate a richer-than-expected intellectual landscape, FluentPet Buttons are an easy way to tell if your dog is similarly gifted. (Let’s be honest – all dogs are good, but not all of them can form reliable sentences.)
The various combinations contain self-contained and labeled buttons that when pressed produce a word such as “outside”, “food” or of course “I love you”. These stick to larger, more easily recognizable (and hopefully not tasting) foam mats to aid in visual learning.
Does your dog really know what it means when he says “I love you”? Maybe, maybe not – love is not in doubt, but he may understand that when he stresses out, he gets pets. Likewise, the food button tends to speed up dinner. And pressing “outside” is faster than staring at the door wistfully. You may not have full conversations with your dog, but it can be a fun way to change the way your friend expresses themselves – because they definitely do, sometimes in unfortunate ways.