If you haven’t gotten your dose of cute cat footage for the day, watch this and then listen up. A startup called Petcube has launched a Kickstarter campaign today to manufacture a sleek box, tricked out with a laser pointer, wide angle camera lens, speakers and Wi-Fi, that allows people to play with their pets remotely.
Pet owners set up the cube in their homes and then use Petcube’s app to speak to their furry friends and drive them crazy with the laser.
The goal is to get some of the first Petcubes into animal shelters, which would have public access feeds so that anyone can play with the parentless pups. In fact, anyone can make their feed public for 15-30 minute intervals so that those whose landlords don’t allow pets (cough) can get in on the fun.
At 320 backers so far, Petcube has raised $32,679 of a $100,000 goal in less than one day.
The Petcube team — Yaroslav Azhnyuk, Andrey Klen, and Alex Neskin — has been working on the project for about a year now and is in the current cohort of HAXLR8R’s hardware accelerator program. After bootstrapping for a year, the startup raised a small round of seed funding from HAXLR8R, SOSVentures, and angel investor Semyon Dukach.
At the moment they are speaking with potential manufacturers, with the intention to ship the hardware in May of next year.
Azhnyuk said they will definitely have an Android app ready by May, as well. An iOS app is currently in the prototype stage. The apps will be free, and the cube will likely retail for $199.
The cubes are silver and quite sleek, but Petcube will also be selling skins to personalize them. Make them furry, for instance.
“For us this is just the beginning. We’re seeing it as this thing to connect all of the other pet-related devices,” Azhnyuk said. “For developers we’ll be giving access to the API, which will make it possible to connect others to Petcube.”
Petcube has been talking with Sphero, for instance, the maker of the phone-controlled robotic ball. The only potential issue I see here is when the ball gets stuck under a couch and out of reach. Then you have to watch your pet struggle with it, which is simultaneously sad, hilarious, and anxiety-producing.
The laser pointer is most appealing to cats and small- to medium-sized dogs, Azhnyuk said; large dogs don’t tend to go for it, which is a good reason to get other hardware makers in on the action. The jury is out on turtles and fish.
There’s also the possibility to gamify what one can only assume will be an already engrossing experience.
“For game developers we’ll give them the opportunity to program their interfaces on top of the Petcube gaming experience. You have a new gaming experience when you’re playing with a live being,” Azhnyuk said. “Then you can also overlay [visuals] on top of the gaming experience.”
Petcube isn’t the only startup in the long-distance pet love space: last month Petzila, a remote treat dispenser, launched an Indiegogo campaign that overshot its fundraising mark by nearly $50,000. With that kind of market validation, the odds seem to be in Petcube’s favor.