It ain't easy being a dog. You can't poop until someone lets you out, you're dependent on others to feed you, and worst of all, you can't play video games. Until now.
Hardware company CleverPet is developing the first electronic game console for canines. Simply called CleverPet, this console launched a Kickstarter campaign two weeks ago that recently shot past its $100K goal with a current tally of $123,988.
Here's how it works: The CleverPet initially gives your dog a treat any time it hits a button. Then, it only rewards them for touching the lit up buttons. After that, it starts integrating puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty. Examples include only hitting the buttons when they're a certain colour, keeping up with DDR-like combinations, or listening to audio cues like "touch blue" or "touch right".
"Many dogs left alone at home are bored and unengaged, which can lead to separation anxiety and costly destructive behaviour," the developer explained on its Kickstarter page. "With CleverPet, your dog is busy, engaged, and challenged at her learning level - automatically. A busy dog is a happy dog, and a busy, happy dog has no time for negative behaviour."
"The best part is that all of this happens while you're out of the house. Instead of anxiously waiting for family members to come back, your dog is busy playing, learning, and eating gradually over the course of the day."
If it sounds cruel to hide a dog's food behind some Professor Layton-esque robot, the developer explained that CleverPet's puzzles will vary in difficulty based on the canine's behaviour - i.e. there are no difficulty spikes. "CleverPet adjusts levels in real time, based on your pet's performance, it's never too easy or too hard," the developer stated.
CleverPet also hosts wi-fi compatibility, so you can check your pet's progress online or in a mobile app. You can also override the system through this, so if your dog isn't getting on with it, you can simply turn it off remotely and give them food.
Of course, there's the danger of dogs just sitting around playing games and eating all day, but that can be a struggle for some humans too - and dogs have less to do in their alone time, so let's cut them some slack.
"Dogs are a working species, and many breeds have evolved to run for more than six hours a day," said CleverPet's chief dog trainer Graham Bloem. "When I think about the potential of CleverPet, my mind immediately goes to the 3-5 million dogs that are euthanised every year. Many of these dogs have bad behavior that's a direct result of the drive that builds up in them over the course of the day. It leads to a cycle: dog is frustrated, dog damages the furniture, dog gets punished, dog gets more frustrated."
When asked if it would work with cats, the developer answered "some cats are energetic, curious, and food-motivated, while others aren't." It added that the first prototype was tested on CleverPet creator Leo Trottier's cat, and it worked. "Our touch pads are designed to work with with any kind of paw, but for now our focus is on interacting with dogs. We know multiple backers have pledged to receive a console that they plan to use with their cats, and our hackable interface will let them program the CleverPet to be feline friendly!"
In other words: cats are weird, so your mileage may vary.
CleverPet can be reserved for $199, though the price will increase to $279 at retail once all the Kickstarter copies are sold out. It's expected to come out in February 2015 and its crowdfunding campaign runs until 1st June. Hopefully the CleverPet devs don't screw the pooch on this one.