Chris Price reviews Furbo, the treat tossing dog camera, now available from Amazon for £199.
The best and the worst thing about the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon is that now everything pretty much can become a smart device with its own clever application.
There’s really not much you can’t connect to the internet and control via your smartphone – fridges, lights, even umbrellas and parasols.
Cameras are an obvious one though and we’ve been inundated with smart security cameras to test, most notably the excellent Blink set-up which allows you to monitor your home remotely via a smartphone app.
But here’s a camera with a novel twist. Rather than being designed to protect your home, it aims to keep your dog company (sort of) while you’re out at work or down the pub.
Robot companion for your dog
Standing around 10inches tall, the Furbo is actually a rather well made piece of kit with a built in 720p high resolution camera complete with a wide angle (120 degrees), night vision lens. The camera is a couple of inches down from the top of the tower, the idea being that it’s roughly at a dog’s head height (depending on the siz of your dog, of course).
As with most devices these days it connects via a USB lead to the plug so you will need to place it relatively near a power supply. In other words it’s not suitable if your dog is outside in a kennel!
As my puppy is still in a cage (see picture above) I positioned the Furbo on the floor a few inches outside the cage door so I could get a good look at her while I was out and about. Using the app you can monitor live footage of your pet and even take screen shots, or video, of him or her if you so wish using the camera/video button on the smartphone app.
The app also lets you set up a profile for your dog, including adding their name, age and a JPEG image.
However the integrated camera and the dog profile set up aren’t the only clever things about this dog device.
Lift off the nicely made, thick wooden lid and you can see a reasonably large compartment where you can place the dog treats. A complimentary packet of treats is provided with the camera although you could easily use your own treats as long as they are not too heavy.
Want to give your dog a treat during the day while you’re out? Then press the snack button on your smartphone and one will be fired towards her to eat from a dispenser in the middle of the unit.
At first Poppy, my 7 month old Springer Spaniel, freaked out at the recording that is played before a snack is dispensed, but she soon got over it when she realised that she was getting a treat. Alternatively it’s possible to record your own ‘snacks call’ to soothe your pet.
Generally the snacks button works quite well. However, I did find it sometimes fired out more than one at a time. On occasion my greedy little girl got three treats from the Furbo even though I pressed the button just once!
Another slight problem is that you do need a reasonably good WiFi connection, otherwise the video will break up. I found that in the kitchen at the back of the house where I struggle to get decent WiFi I needed to buy a plug-in WiFi signal booster in order to get enough signal (this one from D-Link is quite good and it only cost £16.95).
Talk to the animals
Finally, in addition to a high resolution camera and treat tossing feature, the Furbo also offers a two-way audio facility. Either you can talk to your pet to calm her down or she can talk to you – well bark at you anyway!
Built into the Furbo is a microphone and a speaker that can detect if your dog is barking a lot. The app will then send you a ‘Barking Alert’ via push notification. It’s even possible to adjust the barking sensitivity between low, medium and high so you can decide how often you want to be interrupted by your dog’s barks.
Although it all sounds very gimmicky, I find that I actually use the Furbo quite a bit. Not so much for treat tossing (although this is good fun once in a while) but just for keeping an eye on her while I’m out or even upstairs doing some work while she’s sleeping – rather like a baby monitor.
At £199 it’s not that cheap, but for dog lovers it’s a small price to pay for keeping an eye on a furry friend.
You can see our YouTube video review of the Furbo Dog Camera below:
● HD Camera + Night Vision – 720p HD camera features a 120° wide-angle lens, 4x digital zoom and infrared LED night vision for monitoring and clear pictures and videos
● Two-Way Audio – Crisp, built-in speaker and ultra-sensitive microphone, to both hear and speak to dogs and give them the comfort of a familiar voice whenever you’re out
● Treat Tossing System – Simply pop off the lid, drop in up to 30 of your dog’s favourite treats, and with the touch of a button on your app you can play with, and reward, your dog at home
● Barking Alerts – Delivers push notifications to your smartphone letting you know if your dog is barking so you can soothe them in real time
● Mobile App Connectivity – WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, compatible with both iOS and Android, provides access from your smartphone, tablet, or Apple Watch