WASHINGTON — It could be Game Over for bored dogs.
The developers of CleverPet, a new gaming console for dogs, are currently raising money on Kickstarter.
Dan Knudsen, chief science officer of CleverPet, says dogs often feel uncomfortable while their humans are at work.
“They’re sad, and they suffer often from separation anxiety,” says Knudsen.
CleverPet has three large touchpad buttons and a movable tray that reveals a treat when the dog presses the correct buttons in increasingly challenging games.
“We see CleverPet as a way to give them something productive and interactive to do during the day, while their owners can’t be home with them,” says Knudsen.
The device can record and playback the owner’s voice, says Knudsen, “so you can give them instructions like ‘press the left pad’ or ‘press the blue pad,’ and if they do the correct thing, they’ll get a reward.”
CleverPet connects to the Internet over WiFi, and owners can monitor and adjust the game through a smartphone app.
Want a treat?
Knudsen says dogs may initially be confused by a new piece of technology.
“That gets the dog used to having this device in their home that’s going to make noises and play with them,” says Knudsen. “It starts out really simple by just playing a noise, and flashing the buttons, and giving the dog a free treat.”
After receiving treats spontaneously, dogs begin to learn that certain buttons will earn them a piece of kibble.
“It starts out really easy — they can press any button and get a treat, says Knudsen. “And then once they get really good at that we make it so they have to press a specific button that we’ve indicated with a light or sound.”
Eventually, advanced games ask the dog to press a specific button when the light colors change, and to notice when one pad is a different color than the others.
“We can keep track of how your dog is doing, and adjust the interactions to make them more or less difficult,” says Knudsen, “So your dog never gets bored or frustrated with the device.”
Bringing CleverPet to market
Knudsen says their Kickstarter goal is $100,000 by June 2, and the money will be used to machine the device.
It took a lot of research to determine the design of CleverPet, says Knudsen: Dogs were reluctant to press hard plastic devices, so the game console will feature rubber touch pads.
It also has a low center of gravity to prevent tipping, and no “bitable parts.”
Contributors of $159 or more will get a unit from the first production run, when the company begins shipping in February 2015.
“When we get to market, we’re expecting the MSRP will be about $279,” says Knudsen.