Wag The Dog? Tail Monitor Tracks Canine Emotion

Crowdfunded project hopes to deliver a sensor that translates the meaning of your dog's tail wagging. Continue reading →

As Bob Dylan once instructed us, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." True that. So do you need an electronic gizmo to know which way a tail wags?

Maybe. A new crowdfunding campaign over at Indiegogo promises to deliver the world's first tail-wagging monitor that actually translates doggie emotions.

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It's called the DogStar TailTalk and it proceeds from the premise that, with a little technological intervention, we humans can read a dog's specific emotions by the way it wags its tail. The device includes a lightweight sensor that wraps around your poochie's tail and monitors movement with an internal accelerometer and gyroscope.

That information is then beamed wirelessly to a phone app, which translates the movements into a kind of emotional readout. According to the Indiegogo page, certain types of tail movement are specific emotional indicators. Wagging to the left, for instance, indicates negative feelings like fear, anxiety or aggression. Wagging to the right suggests positive feelings like happiness or excitement.

"Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize," according to the designers.

How does the design team know all this? "We have consulted professors from the famous College of Veterinary Medicine in Cornell University already in the early stages of the conceptual design." That's about it in terms of hard science on the crowdfunding page.

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Current plans call for the TailTalk app to work with iOS or Android phones, and will include features like the Happiness Overview function, which tracks Fido's emotional status over the course of a day, a week, or a month. The monitoring device itself is designed to be waterproof and, yes, chew-resistant.

As of now, the campaign has raised about a third of its $100,000 funding goal. If all goes according to plan, the TailTalk device will be ready to ship this time next year.

Gizmos, gadgets and consumer technology need not be exclusive to our species. In fact, there's quite a booming industry out there aiming to leverage high technology for the benefit of dogs, cats and other household pets. Here we take a look at technology for the quadraped set, including some bonafide success stories, some recent developments, and at least one highly suspect initiative.

For the pet who has everything, consider Samsung's recently unveiled Dream Doghouse, a futuristic kennel with paw-operated snack dispenser, wall-mounted tablet display, treadmill and hot tub. Starting price -- around $30,000 U.S.

Motorola's new Scout 5000 -- due this summer -- won't be the first smart collar on the market, but it's got some interesting features. The device sports a GPS-enabled "geo-fencing" feature that emits a high-pitch sound when Fido approaches a pre-determined boundary. The built-in speaker lets you call your dog, so to speak, while the camera can send 720p video directly to your smartphone.

For those who can't bear to be separated from the furry ones in their lives, the

Petcube

is a remote interaction device that sends a live video feed to your computer or mobile device. You can also talk to your pet through the speaker, or even remote control a built-in version of those laser pointer thingies that cats cannot resist.

Wearable fitness gadgets may be all the rage with us bipedal creatures, but several similar gizmos for dogs are out there as well. (Predictably, cats have refused to cooperate.) The

FitBark

monitor tracks your dog's activity and syncs with the companion Android or iOS app. You can track your pooch's performance versus baselines for other dogs in the same weight and breed.

GPS trackers are probably the single most popular pet gadgets these days -- there's an entire industry slugging it out to provide a tech solution to the old lost pet dilemma. The

Tagg

tracking system attaches to your dog's collar and sends an alert if they stray too far from home. If Buster makes for the hills, you'll even get maps and directions using a nationwide GPS and cellular tracking network.

For cat owners who dare to dream the impossible dream, several companies offer tricked-out litter boxes that aim to improve this most unpleasant of necessities. The

Litter-Robot

purports to automate the task (almost) entirely, using a "patented sifting system" to drop waste clumps into a bag fitted in the bottom receptacle. I can't see my cat getting within 50 yards of this thing, but you have to admire the advertising art.

An idea this simple just has to be good, right? The battery-powered

iFetch

works just like you think it works: Your dog drops the ball in one end, and the machine launches it from the other -- over and over, forever. You can set the machine for 10, 20 or 30 feet, and it's designed to work with the standard miniature-sized tennis balls found in pet stores. For dogs that slobber a lot, the iFetch designers suggest squash balls instead. Science!

This seems like an old Jetsons joke, but it apparently it's not. Early last year, the

"No More Woof"

project at Indiegogo raised more than $20,000 to develop a prototype EEG system for translating animal thoughts into spoken language. Note the loudspeaker in the image above. Based in Sweden, the project comes from, and we quote, "The Nordic Society for Invention & Discovery." The team has been suspiciously quiet for a year or so now, and

comments

on the Indiegogo page do not inspire confidence. Still, we shall hope for the best.