People typically have one of two views when it comes to the psychology of animals. It’s either, “it’s a dumb animal, what does it care?” Or, “my dog/cat/pet of choice thinks it’s people, too.” As much as we may want to deny it, it’s true: Animals have feelings, and brains that can gain knowledge. How we bring up our fur babies, reinforce and scold them all goes a very long way. Cognitive Science PhD candidate (at UCSD) Leo Trottier and Neruological Sciences PhD Dan Knudsen joined forces to create a device that not only helps animals psychologically, but gives them a try at gaming.
From a psychological standpoint, CleverPet can improve your dog’s overall mood and sense of control. It can also [in the long run] help train your dog more efficiently. For example: Let’s say you buy a puppy, and work a full-time job, pulling you away from home a lot. You’re not likely to spend a lot of time properly training your pup with the right amount of both positive and negative reinforcement. Being a new pup exploring a whole new world, he or she might accidentally leave you a present on the carpet. You get home, yell at them, and due to lack of positive reinforcement in their training, the anger and scolding doesn’t click. This makes it difficult to train the animal, and does a poor job at preventing the incident from happening again.
With a capacity of 2.5 cups of food, and an app that helps you monitor when the device is on and how much food it dispenses, CleverPet can teach your dog the sense of accomplishment and positive reinforcement when you’re away. The device will boost your dog’s self confidence, sense of control, and responses (both neurological and vocal) to the things you say. And most importantly – keep them entertained!
CleverPet comes loaded with three different types of games. “Catch the squirrel,” matching, and vocal recognition. “Catch the squirrel” has a light that scatters between the three buttons, requiring the dog to “catch” the light. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though! Your pup can’t simply set it’s paw (or nose) down on one light and win – they have to hit the light when it flashes. Matching is similar to the Simon Says toy; the device will create a pattern the dog must replicate, within a time limit. Vocal recognition helps the dog make correlations between your commands and the device. You can record your voice saying, “left,” “center,” and “right,” (or anything, for that matter) and the dog will have to match the button to the command.
If three games doesn’t seem like enough, don’t worry: as the dog gains levels, it unlocks more pattern, logic and memory games to play. With app updates directly to the device, CleverPet will provide endless new games for your pup to play. The hub is very responsive to the dog’s learning curve and progress.
The adorable demo dog at CES, Princess Fiona, was playing the matching game. She had progressed from two buttons lighting up (easy) to just one (higher difficulty). Princess Fiona had been focused on the left button, and missed the center button flashing. Had she succeeded, a treat would have dispensed, and a different single light would have light up. Because she didn’t hit the right button, the game automatically went back down to the lower difficulty.
The possibilities following CleverPet’s April release are endless. With a device anyone can put in their home, we will have a much better understanding of dogs, what they find fun, and how to further engineer games for them and potentially other animals. Imagine a game that utilizes a Kinect-like device, displaying puzzles on your television, requiring your dog to move about its area to complete them. Or even something that projects puzzles onto the floor, using motion sensors to register the dog’s progress.
I personally wasn’t sure what to expect before meeting with the CleverPet team today – I was blown away with the results it has shown in pets, and left the booth smiling from ear to ear. As strange as it may sound, gaming for animals isn’t very far fetched. Gaming has proved to help humans psychologically with things like depression, and anxiety. Who is to say it can’t help animals, too? CleverPet is running a one-time pre-order special for its first release: Pre-Order during CES and get $30 off ($269 + $25 shipping).