Like everything else in our lives, technology has changed how we interact with our pets. Now from an iPhone or other smart device, we can remotely monitor our beloved critters, feed them, or even play with them. But what about the other way around? Can dogs use technology to initiate the interaction with their humans? That’s exactly the question that’s led a Scotland researcher to develop DogPhone.
According to Gizmodo, DogPhone is the brainchild of University of Glasgow in Scotland researcher Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas. A laptop is set up for the dog, and the DogPhone device is installed inside of an object that looks like a toy ball. Specific movements from the dog while handling the ball cause it to connect to the laptop and trigger a video call to its human. From there, it’s up to the dog and their human to manifest the scintillating conversation. The human can also dial in to the DogPhone, allowing the pet the freedom to answer or screen it like the rest of us. Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas talked to Insider about the experience of her own 10-year-old labrador Zack using DogPhone. You can watch the video below.
One of the more surprising notes from Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas is that DogPhone increased her own anxiety level for her dog’s well-being. She said at first her pooch seemed confused after making the video calls, but soon got used to it. The worry came in because over the course of several weeks, her labrador Zack would call most days, making the researcher concerned on the days he didn’t call. Maybe he was just too into TikTok and didn’t want to stop.
DogPhone is not part of any get rich schemes on Hirskyj-Douglas’ part, at least not according to Gizmodo’s report. The researcher has created other devices for dog use before, with the goal of researching how the pups experience technology. As much as you might want one, DogPhone is not intended for commercial use, so you won’t be picking any up at an Apple store any time soon. It was in part the COVID-19 pandemic — which, particularly in 2020, led to so many people becoming pet owners to help combat isolation — that inspired Hirskyj-Douglas to create the DogPhone for her research.
Frankly, we feel a lot more comfortable with the existence of DogPhone than we do with another dog-related tech news story that surfaced last month. At a United States Army conference the SPUR (Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle) was unveiled. The SPUR looks like a dog from afar, but once you see it close up you realize that instead of fur and a wagging tongue, its four legs are carrying a sniper rifle. The SPUR’s tagline is “Warfighter’s best friend,” and we’re certain it will be in heavy use once SkyNet goes live.
There’s no word on whether or not Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas or one of her colleagues will be developing a CatPhone to go with the DogPhone, but probably not. Her area of interest seems to center on dogs. Plus, cats already have CAT-AT, so they probably won’t complain.