Hi, my name is Amanda. Do you want to see my dog?
This is Boatmeal.
He is a one and a half year old border collie, and he loves pears. In hazardous situations, you can say “safe” and Boatmeal will seat himself between your legs and stay there until you say it’s OK to go. He will also do this in non-hazardous situations. And he will sometimes do this without you instructing him to do so, just because he wants to be close to you.
He is the most beautiful, precious boy in the entire world.
A well trained boy is a good boy! Showing off my "safe" position and not budging until mum says it's okay ???? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #dog #dogstagram #dogsofsydney #dogofaustralia #bordercollie #bordercolliefeature #borderfame #redandwhitebordercollie #bordercolliesoftheworld #bordercolliesofinstagram #video #dogtraining
There is a whole Instagram devoted to pictures of this bestest of boys, but sometimes photos aren’t enough. Sometimes, you need to know exactly what your furry companion is doing at the exact moment you’re thinking of him. Is he thinking about me too? I hope he is.
The Furbo Dog Camera is a treat-dispensing device designed to address this very important need. Funded via Indiegogo, the pet-monitoring camera was released in Australia this May, and Boatmeal and I have been trying it out.
Though I think my dog hung the stars, I was initially unsure about the Furbo. It helped that the camera gave a good first impression. It’s an attractive device, its slick build and round bamboo lid reminding me of a classy oil diffuser. But, like an oil diffuser, I questioned whether I’d use it beyond a day or two.
Setting the Furbo up was fairly easy. An Australian power plug comes inside the Furbo where it holds treats, but there are a couple of useless US plugs in the base of the box, which I really disliked – I hate contributing to landfill.
Plugging in the Furbo, downloading the app, and following the setup instructions was straightforward, though I did run into a small speed bump when the colour-changing status light at the Furbo’s base kept glowing a disapproving purple. The quick start guide informed me that my Furbo had no Wi-Fi connection, so I had to dive into the app’s help section for instructions on how to fix it.
But it was fairly painless, and once that hiccup was resolved, using the Furbo was remarkably simple. Nearly everything can be done via the app, including turning the camera on or off, adjusting the speaker volume, and switching between day and night vision. Taking a photo or recording a video is also easily done via buttons on the left side of the screen.
The video quality isn’t the best – it’s a bit fuzzy, and though I recorded at 720p, the difference between 720p and Furbo’s 1080p setting isn’t notable on mobile. (It also records at 360p, which is noticeable.)
Still, it served its purpose in allowing me to keep an eye on my best boy, and take pictures of us while Boatmeal tried to stop me from going to work. Photos don’t appear as blurry as the video or live footage.
The average video quality also didn’t dampen the delight amongst my coworkers when I was able to show them live footage of Boatmeal playing with my dad.
I could watch this for hours. Video: Gizmodo Australia
The Furbo’s talk function can be toggled on and off via a microphone icon on the bottom right corner of the screen, and operates much like a walkie talkie. When it is turned on you can speak to your pet, but you won’t hear any sound from them so as to prevent you from hearing an echo.
Similarly, when it is turned off the Furbo’s microphone will pick up your pet, but you won’t be able to talk to them. This means that if you want to use the Furbo for a back and forth exchange, you need to keep switching the talk function on and off.
The Furbo’s speaker isn’t great quality. Boatmeal appeared to react to the fact of noise rather than recognise my voice or commands, and sometimes seemed slightly disconcerted. And the sound from the Furbo’s microphone is worse – tinny and garbled enough that conversation can be difficult to make out. Then again, you’ll largely be using it to hear barks of varying intensity, so crystal clear audio is arguably not that important.
A bark alert feature will send you a push notification if Furbo detects your dog is making noise, but Boatmeal is a pretty quiet boy so I’ve only had it trigger once – when he was playing with a goat horn and clattering it on the wooden floor.
Dispensing treats with the Furbo is a lot of fun, and I had to actively restrain myself from tossing treat after treat to watch Boatmeal scramble after them. It’s just a matter of filling up the Furbo before you leave the house, then swiping an illustration of a treat upwards from the bottom of the screen.
The Furbo had more power behind it than I expected, launching treats 3-4m across the room – far enough to hit the furniture on the other side of the room where I’d set it up. So rather than sit beneath the device, waiting for it to drop treats into his open maw like manna from Heaven, Boatmeal got at least a little bit of exercise.
The app also keeps count of how many times you’ve tossed treats each day, helping you refrain from overfeeding. Though this count doesn’t necessarily correlate with how many treats you’ve tossed – I used treats around the recommended 1cm in diameter, and the Furbo sometimes dispensed more than one.
Me speaking to Boatmeal, then throwing a treat. For what it’s worth, I think the speaker sound was a little better than in the recording. Video: Gizmodo Australia
Multiple devices can log into the app at the same time, a fact I quickly discovered after I gave my sister my Furbo login and password. Though if you do this, be prepared for others to silently peek into your home with no notice. It can be a little startling watching MasterChef and suddenly being interrupted by a disembodied voice requesting you move the Furbo into Boatmeal range.
Which brings me to one of the Furbo’s drawbacks. Though it has a nice wide angle, it is still just one, fixed camera, therefore can only cover so much ground. While I set up the camera to cover the area where Boatmeal spends the most time, he was still off-camera a lot, having doggy adventures while I could only stare at my dogless screen.
It may not be such an issue if you confine your pet to one room, but I was fortunate there was usually someone at home who could move the Furbo, or else provide me with an update on the giant fluff boy’s location.
The Furbo is a fun gadget that serves unlimited fresh dog content direct to my phone, and there is no nobler cause. I will never tire of looking at videos of the most amazing pup ever.
But at $359, it’s a bit dear for what it is, particularly considering the camera and microphone quality. I’d want better video and audio for the price. And I don’t particularly want my dog associating treats with oil diffusers rather than with me.
Still, Boatmeal himself didn’t seem to mind.
Treats? Video: Gizmodo Australia
- Video records at 360p, 720p and 1080p. All are fuzzy but adequate for pet monitoring.
- Microphone is tinny and conversation incoherent.
- Garbled speaker may unsettle your dog. Garbled speaker may unsettle you.
- Throwing treats is fun and gets some good distance.
- App is easy enough to use that your mum could probably do it.
- Showing people a live video feed of your dog is a guaranteed way to make friends and influence people.
My dog started to get anxious about my recent move as soon as he saw me packing boxes. So when Furbo, an Indiegogo success, offered us its new pet camera with a built in treat dispenser, it seemed like a great way to keep an eye on him and keep him happy. Naturally, I wanted it.Read more