The concept of dogs using a special ball to video contact their owners may be absurd, but researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland recently constructed such a gadget.
The so-called “DogPhone” is made up of a little ball equipped with a sensor. When the dog moves the ball, the sensor starts a video connection with a laptop nearby. The owner can also call the dog, but the animal must move the ball in order to connect.
Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, the DogPhone’s creator, claimed she was inspired to build the device after noticing that there were lots of devices that allowed owners to check on their home-alone pets, but none that allowed the animals to initiate interaction with their masters.
“I’ve been creating devices for my dog and many other dogs for quite some time now,” Hirskyj-Douglas explained in a video about the DogPhone. “I think a lot of these devices are incredibly helpful for giving dogs options or choices for enrichment purposes.”
Hirskyj-Douglas put the DogPhone through its paces with her 10-year-old labrador, Zack. The test phase lasted many weeks, with the ball being put out for Zack whenever she left the house.
Zack quickly moved the ball across the floor, prompting the laptop to video contact Hirskyj-Douglas.
“It was quite exciting at first to get calls from him,” the researcher stated.
However, she claimed that at the end of the test time, she began to feel uneasy when Zack failed to make a call.
“Toward the end, it became a little more stressful for me because occasionally I wouldn’t get a video call or he wouldn’t contact me during the day, and I’d think, ‘Oh, he usually calls me at this time.'”
It’s unclear whether Zack realized that moving the ball caused his owner’s face to appear on a laptop display, or if the calls were just placed at random whenever he played with the ball.
Hirskyj-Douglas appeared pleased with the experiment’s findings, claiming that it indicated that “we can truly form technology quite differently for animals.” Animals can be active consumers of technology and control technology; we just need to rethink how we perceive the future of dog technology.”
There are no plans to commercialize the DogPhone, but we suppose there are plenty of owners who appreciate the concept of their pet contacting them when they’re gone, even if the discussion is a little one-sided.