FRANCISCO — Ever been stuck late at the office while
your furry friend is home alone, and wished you could
give Fido or Fluffy a quick ring or text to check in?
your pet develops opposable thumbs, Petcube may offer
the next best thing.
San Francisco-based company sells a smart camera that
allows users to watch their pets in real time and talk
and play with them remotely using a laser pointer.
Customers use their smartphone to check in on their own
pets, or they can use the Petcube app to play with
adoptable shelter pets in their area.
basically like Skype for you and your pet, but your pet
doesn’t have to pick up the phone," said
co-founder Yaroslav Azhnyuk.
$199 device, called Petcube Camera, is a sleek silver
and black cube that stands 4 inches tall, with a
microphone, camera and laser on one side, and a speaker
on the other. It plugs into the wall and connects to
Wi-Fi. Owners use the free Petcube app to control the
camera’s laser pointer, dragging a red dot around on
the screen with their finger.
is part of a growing market for high-tech pet gadgets.
Apps like Wag let users book on-demand dog walkers in
San Francisco and other cities. Other companies sell
GPS-enabled collars that let users track their pet’s
location from a smartphone, such as San Francisco-based
Whistle, which was recently acquired by pet-food company
Mars Petcare. Petcube also has direct competition in the
pet camera space from products such as the Petzi Treat
Cam, a camera that dispenses pet treats, made by San
Clark, president and CEO of Petzila, said he’s seen
the pet tech industry expand significantly since he
founded his company in 2012.
all care for our pet and wonder what they’re doing
when we’re not there, and of course, want to be good
pet parents," Clark said. "It seemed very much
like a logical progression for technology to begin to
incorporate our pets."
Petzi Treat Cam jingles when its human user turns it on
remotely, Clark said, which alerts the dog or cat to
expect its owner’s voice. After talking to their pet,
users can press a button on their smartphone to launch a
small treat into the room. The treat is important, Clark
said, because it gives the animal an incentive to
approach the camera once it turns on.
Charpiot, 29, of San Francisco, uses Petcube to check in
on her cat, Tintin. She bought the camera when she was
preparing for a four-day trip and couldn’t find anyone
to watch him. Charpiot said she has an automatic feeder,
but she worried Tintin, who she calls "needy,"
would get lonely while she and her boyfriend were gone.
Though it may be confusing for a non-tech-savy pet to
hear his owner’s disembodied voice coming from a box,
Tintin seems to have taken to it.
reaction he gets when the thing turns on is really
funny," Charpiot said. "He starts meowing at
it like it’s a bird or something, and he’s really,
the laser helps get Tintin, who had been getting a bit
chubby, off the couch, Charpiot said.
also taps into the public’s love of cat videos,
improving upon the Internet staple by adding an
interactive element. By tapping the "play"
feature on the app, users can access Petcubes of
strangers all over the world who have made their
accounts public. It would be easy to waste plenty of
time at work making other people’s cats and dogs chase
a laser pointer back and forth. But on a recent weekday,
many of the pets in the public accounts were napping or
otherwise uninterested. Other cameras showed a view of
an empty room, with no pets in sight.
of these public accounts belong to animal shelters, such
as Hopalong Animal Rescue in Oakland and KitTea cat cafe
in San Francisco, which receive the cameras for free.
Boyd, executive director of Hopalong, said her cats love
chasing the laser.
nice for the cats to break up their day, to have someone
out there playing with them," she said.
public account also helps garner interest in the shelter’s
adult cats, which are the hardest to place.
idea behind Petcube was sparked by Azhnyuk’s
co-founder, Alex Neskin, who couldn’t get his
Chihuahua, Rocky, to stop barking when he wasn’t home.
Neskin turned to Google for a solution, but the most
high-tech option he found was an anti-bark collar —
and Neskin was bothered by the idea of shocking his dog.
They created Petcube with the idea that Rocky would calm
down and stop barking if he heard Neskin’s voice, and
founders originally launched Petcube in the Ukraine, and
now have 25 employees there and 10 in San Francisco.
Petcube raised $250,000 on online crowdfunding platform
Kickstarter in 2013, was backed by Mountain View-based
accelerator Y Combinator this year, and has raised $3.8
million in venture capital funds. In March the company
hit 20,000 Petcubes sold.
made for pets should be made with as much care as
products made for people," Yaroslav said,
"because pets are such important parts of our
product: A smart camera that lets you watch, talk to and
play with your pet remotely
Camera, microphone, speaker, laser, Wi-Fi enabled
the camera: Order online at petcube.com. It’s also
available at amazon.com, and in stores including Best
Buy and Brookstone.
the app: Find links to download the free Petcube app for
iOS or Android at petcube.com/mobile-app.
product: A smart camera that dispenses treats for your
Camera, speaker, treat launcher, Wi-Fi enabled
About 13 inches tall
the camera: Order online at petzi.com. It’s also
available at amazon.com, and in stores including Bed
Bath & Beyond and Best Buy.
the app: Find links to download the free Petzi app for
iOS or Android at social.petzi.com.