iPet the Cat

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The iPet Companion remote robotic cat toy, which allows us to play with shelter cats over the internet with real time live video feed, has entertained and amused both cats and viewers, aided in adoptions, and brought donations to two participating test shelters.

For the past few months, AprioriControl’s iPet system has been up and running at the Oregon and Idaho Humane Societies, where cats and kittens play with the unit’s long snaky tubes ending in balls or feathers. Players who’ve signed in for their turn operate the toys, making them bounce and jiggle to and fro, as the action streams live on the player’s computer screen. Interested internet users can stop by to tune in when the cats are at play or view the room when the cats are resting or otherwise occupied.

According to the Oregon Humane Society, kitten adoptions have increased by 16 percent since the Robotic Cat Playroom system was installed, with people asking for the kitten they have gotten to know from afar by playing with her through their computer. At the same time, donations and sponsorships have increased by 295 percent, and web traffic by 52 percent, while shelter cats have gotten beneficial exercise and mental stimulation. Moreover, the live video feed shows visitors who stop by to play or just to watch, that shelter cats are not just lost souls living in cages, but are playful creatures with their own special personalities.

While such a thing is a long way off, we can imagine playing with our own cats some day while we’re away at the office and they’re at home. In the meanwhile the developers foresee further application of the remote interactive technology, to include home viewer participation in live television shows. Cats and shelters are the early testers and beneficiaries of this new technology, so one day when Conan O’Brien gets a pie in the face, lobbed by a home viewer, a former shelter cat in Oregon and her Mom and Dad can all say “We helped make this happen”.

Here’s video from iPet Companion’s parent company showing a particularly active play session.

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