Man’s best friend just got their own digits.
Introducing the DogPhone, a collaboration of University of Glasgow’s Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas and her 10-year-old Labrador Zack. The device represents a pioneering dog-to-human video call device prototype — and an extremely adorable way for owners to further interact with their beloved furballs.
“DogPhone allows Zack to call Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas by picking up and shaking a ball fitted with an accelerometer,” explains a video on the canine conversation tool produced by the University of Glasgow. “When the accelerometer senses movement, it initiates a video call on a laptop in their living room allowing Zack to see and interact with his owner whenever he chooses. Zack’s owner can also use the system to call him, and he is free to answer or ignore the call.”
Hirskyj-Douglas was inspired to create the new paw-friendly tech after noticing how many new remote tools were being created for humans to check in on their pets and how empty the market was for animal-controlled devices. “Over the past decade, many systems have been developed for humans to remotely connect to their pets at home,” reads the abstract of a research article by Hirskyj-Douglas published this month and titled “Forming the Dog Internet: Prototyping a Dog-to-Human Video Call Device.”
Little attention, however, has been paid “to how animals can control such systems and what the implications are of animals using internet systems” it continues.
In experimenting with the DogPhone, Hirskyj-Douglas found it “very exciting to get calls” from her Labrador initially but receiving rings from Zack “became a bit more emotional for me near the end” of the experiment as sometimes Zack “wouldn’t ring me,” making her anxious, she said in the promotional video. Meanwhile, she believes Zack had the opposite experience, initially being confused by the DogPhone before adjusting to it.
In addition to being amusing, Hirskyj-Douglas also strongly believes the DogPhone demonstrates that “we can really form technology very differently for animals” who can be “active users” of tech if only people can “reshape our thinking about how we see the future of dog technology.”