DogPhone Lets Pets Ring Their Owners

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Guardian: [R]esearchers have created a hi-tech option for canines left home alone: a ball that allows them to call their owners on the old dog and bone. The device -- nicknamed the DogPhone -- is a soft ball that, when moved, sends a signal to a laptop that launches a video call, and the sound of a ringing telephone. The owner can choose whether to take the call, and when to hang up, while they can also place a call to their pet -- although the dog has to move the ball to pick up. The research, which is published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Computer-Human interaction and is being presented at the 2021 ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces Conference in Lodz, Poland, reveals how [Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, of the University of Glasgow, and first author of the research] and researchers from Aalto University in Finland settled on a soft ball to create the device. The DogPhone underwent a number of iterations to ensure it had the right level of sensitivity towards movement -- these were tested over 16 days by Hirskyj-Douglas and her nine-year-old black labrador, Zack. A diary detailing the calls between owner and pet suggests the latter did not always seem to know what he was doing -- despite having been shown five times how the system worked. "Dog rang me but was not interested in our call instead was checking for things in his bed," Hirskyj-Douglas noted during the testing of one iteration. Another entry reveals the potential pitfalls of the DogPhone. "Dog walking around wagging and then laying down. I was in a meeting so had to hang up quickly," one record reveals. The team say that many of the calls made by Zack -- who was left alone for about eight hours during testing days -- appear to have been accidents although they caution that may simply be the human perspective. "For example, when the dog triggered the system with their butt, this could have been deliberate and the dog's unique way of triggering an interaction," they write.

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