Alex Neskin‘s chihuahua puppy, Rocky, was going crazy. Whenever the Ukrainian technologist would go to work, Rocky would “bark, scratch at the doors, and massively disturb the neighbors,” he tells Co.Design. Neskin couldn’t exactly hire Cesar Millan to make house calls every day, so he decided to create the next best thing: Petcube. It’s a sleek little connected product that lets you see, talk to, and even play with your pet remotely.
Sure, Petcube may look more like HAL 9000 than a pet webcam–not least because it includes a red laser you can control to play games with your pup or kitty–but according to Neskin’s partner and Petcube CEO Yaroslav Azhnyuk, the device is all heart. “Great inventions come from bitter experiences,” Azhnyuk says. “Rocky begged for a bit of attention and something to interact with. Sure, Petcube can’t replace a contact with a real person and it’s not supposed to do so. It is just an extra way for pet parents to keep in touch with their loved ones.” (Petcube’s Kickstarter campaign does say that the team designed some cute and furry “skins” to cover the device with, if the metal sci-fi look isn’t your thing–or your pet’s.)
What’s most interesting about Petcube, though, is that its creators plan to deploy the device to pet shelters in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Azhnyuk says that several shelters have already expressed interest in getting a prototype Petcube.) Just like a webcam, any Petcube can be configured for shared or public access–which means that lonely shelter animals could get an additional dose of attention from people anywhere on Earth. “It’s much more fun and engaging than browsing funny cat videos,” Azhnyuk says. “People will get a chance to contact the shelter immediately after playing with a cat or a dog … we expect that it will help to raise adoption rates.”
And not just adoption rates for the pets. Azhnyuk adds that the shelter program is also intended as a feel-good, consequence-free way for potential customers to test-drive the Petcube experience itself and entice them to buy. Even if you don’t adopt a cat or dog after playing with one through the Petcube, you’ve done some good for a disadvantaged animal, and it may get you thinking about the furry companion at your own home. But if you want one, you’ll have to help Petcube meet its Kickstarter goal first.