SXSW (South by Southwest) is happening right now, and in addition to new musical acts, it increasingly highlights exciting developments in the tech world. And that includes the dog tech world.
You’ve heard about cars that drive and park themselves, but what about a dog vest that senses an emergency and dials 911?
According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent over 60 billion dollars on their pets last year, and the tech world is cashing in with innovative, practical, and downright silly stuff to make life with your dog more advanced. From pet wearables to doggy spy cams to novelty tech that’s more fun than functional, these are the craziest tech advances for dogs.
One of the earliest and still-hottest tech trends for dogs is wearables that track their activity. Dog fitness trackers are great if you’re trying to help your dog lose weight, or just want to generate some cool charts and graphs based on their daily activity.
FitBark was one of the first pet activity trackers on the market, and may be the most popular. It’s a colorful, bone-shaped device that attaches to your dog’s collar, monitors her activity throughout the day, and syncs to your smartphone or computer via bluetooth. PC Magazine praises FitBark’s app and build-in social network, which lets you set a “BarkPoints” activity goal, compare your dog’s stats to others, and track her progress over time.
Newer pet trackers emphasize safety over fitness, using built-in GPS to track your dog’s whereabouts, which can provide life-saving location services if she gets lost. Devices like Whistle let you set up “virtual fences” by designating specific coordinates as your dog’s home/safety zones. If your dog strays beyond the boundaries, the device will send an alert to your phone.
Surveillance Tech Toys
Do you come home from work to mysteriously chewed-up couch cushions? Wondering what else your dog is up to while you’re out of the house? The latest tech for dogs combines good old-fashioned surveillance with interactive features to remind your dog that you’re with them, even when you’re not.
Sure, you could just set up a simple webcam to keep an eye on your dog during the day. But why stop there? The PetCube camera syncs to your smartphone and lets you watch, talk to, and even play with your dog from afar (though the built-in laser dot “toy” may be more appealing to cats than dogs). The PawsCam is a motion-activated camera that affixes to your dog’s collar and points the lens outwards, so you can watch recorded video from your dog’s point of view (I have a feeling I’d get an inside view of the cat’s litter box, my dog’s favorite place to visit when I leave).
Then there are gadgets that combine monitoring with food motivation. For instance, the Petzi Treatcam streams a basic video feed to an app on your phone, which you can use to monitor your pup, connect with other pet people, and “treat” your dog remotely. Very cool!
Looking for a fun, interactive puzzle toy to keep your dog busy while you’re at work? There’s an app (and gadget) for that!
Puzzle toys like the PupPod combine surveillance tech (a camera that streams video) with training incentives (a challenging game resulting in tasty treats), and it’s all controllable remotely, so you can join in the fun from afar.
Video games for dogs may sound like a joke, but guess what: they’re already here! The CleverPet “game console” doesn’t have a camera or controller, but it’s a treat-dispensing puzzle toy that challenges your dog with light-based puzzles, and streams data to an app you can follow from work.
Safety features are a major draw in dog tech, but some companies are taking it one step further with products designed for dog and human safety alike.
The FIDO vest is wearable technology designed with service dogs in mind, meant to not only supervise your dog, but provide extra safety to humans. FIDO stands for “Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations” and according to the creators, this vest was designed to expand what service dogs can do (source). For instance, if a physically impaired person is in danger, their service dog can use a tug or bite sensor on the vest to call 911. Now that’s life-saving technology.
If you’re looking for truly innovative, wearable, does-it-all pet safety tech, the Kyon Pet Tracker may be your best bet. This sleek collar isn’t even available commercially yet, making it all the more elite. In addition to activity tracking and a built-in GPS, the Kyon has a heat sensor that sends an alert if the external temperature is dangerously high, and a water sensor for dogs that aren’t strong swimmers. It even claims to sense your dog’s mood: if the Kyon notices your dog’s activity level is especially low, it sends an alert to your phone reading, “I’m not feeling well!” With a starting price of $249, plus a $4.99/month fee to cover the cellular tracking network, the Kyon collar isn’t cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on being the coolest canine tech on the bloc.
Just for Fun
What’s the point of all this crazy new technology if we can’t have a little fun? There are plenty of just-for-fun apps and devices available to make life with your dog more tech-savvy and irreverent.
If you’re looking for a fun diversion, check out Fetch!, the app that identifies breeds based on a picture, but is most fun for categorizing humans as dogs. Fetch! had a little trouble identifying my pit bull mix, but it correctly identified me as a pug at heart.
Then there’s tech-infused fashion for dogs, from a “smart harness” with a camera mount to the DiscoDog LED vest, which lets you customize light shows and text messages to turn your dog into a light-up billboard.
Finally, the craziest tech advance for dogs just might be the tech advance that is a dog: Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, Spot. Though based on the video recently released by the design team, Spot isn’t about to replace real dogs. Technology is cool, but nothing beats the good old-fashioned, analog companionship of a warm-blooded dog.
Top image via flickr/thomashawk