There’s a new taxi service for dogs in the nation’s capital.
Launched earlier this month, Rapid Paws will transport your pooch (or cat) wherever he or she needs to go — be it vet, groomer, day care, airport, or even to another state.
The on-demand limousine service for animals has a fleet of two climate controlled, high-roofed vans, and they’re even equipped with cams should you want to check in and take a look as your dog gets from here to there.
Customers can schedule a a door-to-door pickup and local delivery to anywhere in Washington and its burbs, and they can do that by phone, via the Rapid Paws website, or through a smartphone app.
While the service may sound over the top, owner Paul Ozner says it’s filling a need.
“It’s an excessive service for some, in terms of basic necessities. But some of the people in this area, they’re time-constrained, and they do have pets. So what are you going to do? You have to treat them right,” he told the Washington Post.
So far, he said, most clients are middle aged professionals too busy to take off work to run their pet to the vet, or disabled, ill or elderly pet owners seeking a little help.
Rapid Paws has teamed up with one real estate company to transport the dogs or cats of people who are relocating.
Ozner said he and his partners came up with the idea based on their experience with a company that delivered meals to schools and the elderly.
Fares typically run from $25 to $60, depending on the length of the trip.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 18th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, app, cats, day care, dc, dogs, groomers, limousine, maryland, pet, pets, rapid paws, services, shipping, taxi, transport, transportation, vet, veterinarian, virginia, washington, website
Only in these mega-awesome modern times could a product that really doesn’t work well at all become a big hit.
And only in the Internet age could how badly it works be a selling point.
Fetch! is an app that lets you upload a photo of your dog and learn what breed it is, or, judging from my try, what breed it’s not.
It was released yesterday just in time for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, according to promotional material. (Last I checked, competitors at Westminster were pretty sure what breeds their dogs were.)
The app analyzes a photo and makes a guess as to breed — using its artificial intelligence and tons of data stored in clouds.
It’s just one of the latest products to hit the market offering to guess everything from your age to your state of mind to the significance of your mustache — all via the power of object recognition, a key facet of artificial intelligence.
It comes as a Web app or download for devices running Apple’s iOS, and you can also get an idea of what it’s all about at the website what-dog.net.
I generally avoid apps (I’m app-rehensive?) so I went to the website to give it a test. I fed it three different photos of Ace, and it identified him as a Rhodesian Ridgeback each time. (He’s not.)
Next I uploaded a photo of myself and was told I was a “Chihuahua … quick witted, loving, wary of strangers and other dogs.”
(Strangers and dogs are actually the two things I’m NOT wary of.)
Microsoft is using the device’s lack of reliability as a selling point, as if to say, “Well no, it’s not really accurate at all, but isn’t it fun?”
Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.
As in the series of ads from Time Warner that make light of the sheer hell the company — once, they’d have us believe — put customers through.
As in the direction the news media has been going in ever since it realized there was an Internet.
As in all those overused hooks designed to get us to click a link on the Internet – such as awesome, epic, jaw-dropping, life-changing, pee-your-pants-funny, you’re not going to believe what happened next.
With Fetch, in my case, not too much happened next.
But its developers say they expect it to wow the masses.
“There was an interest in creating a framework that would allow you to take a domain – in our case, dogs – and recognize numerous classes, such as breeds. We were interested in enabling an app to allow you to make object recognition extraordinary, fun and surprising,” said Mitch Goldberg, one of the Fetch developers
“If you want to take photos of dogs, it will tell you what dog breed it is, if it’s one of our supported breeds. If I choose to take a photograph of a flower, it’ll say, ‘No dogs found! Hmmm… This looks more like…flower?’ But if you take a picture of a person, it’ll kick into its hidden fun mode. And in a playful way, it’ll communicate to you not only what type of dog it thinks you are, but also why.”
Follow all that? When the app works, it’s an amazing example of artificial intelligence. When it doesn’t, don’t worry, it’s in playful, fun mode.
I sometimes wonder if artificial intelligence is gaining on us, or if we’re just getting more stupid.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 12th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ai, animals, app, apps, artificial intelligence, breed, breeds, dog, dog breeds, dogs, fetch, garage, identifier, identify, identifying, internet, media, microsoft, news, object, pets, photographs, photos, recognition
Wag!, a tech startup that touts itself as an Uber for dog walkers, has its tail between its legs this week.
A dog walker hired through the new app that connects pet owners with walkers lost a Brooklyn couple’s Chihuahua, who subsequently was hit by a car and killed.
Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski had a regular dog walker, also through Wag!, but when that dog walker called in sick on Nov. 18, another Wag! walker was assigned.
The woman was supposed to take out the couple’s oldest dog, Chicken, and check on Duckie, but apparently she either misunderstood the instructions, or Duckie slipped out of the building.
The couple said they cautioned the new walker that Duckie, who was adopted two months earlier, was fearful of strangers and would probably be too anxious to go for a walk.
“We had a text conversation explaining the situation,” Golebiewski told the New York Daily News. “She said she could do it and was comfortable.”
The California-based company claims on its website that all their dog walkers are “certified” and “rigorously screened/vetted.”
The couple spent the next seven days searching for the dog.
Wag! executives contributed to the search, calling upon other dog walkers to help.
They also installed motion detecting cameras in nearby Prospect Park and set traps near where Duckie had been spotted, the Daily News reported.
“We do have a plan in place in the .00001% chance something like this can happen,” said Wag! co-founder Joshua Viner.
According to Wag! representatives, Wag! co-founder Jason Meltzer flew in from Los Angeles to search the park for a day, and the company’s New York manager spent 18 hours a day in the park for a week.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Duckie’s owners got a call from a veterinarian saying the dog had been fatally struck by a car on Seeley Street, near the edge of the park.
“We feel terrible. It hurts us,” Viner said, offering an apology that sounded pretty self-centered. “This literally stopped my week.”
(Photos courtesy of Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 2nd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, app, brooklyn, chihuahua, dog, dog walker, dog walking, dogs, dogwalker, dogwalking, duckie, lost, pets, technology, uber, wag, walkers
Yes, ohmidog! pokes cruel fun at “new technology” from time to time, but only when “new technology” deserves it — as is the case with this tail wagging monitor a group hopes to bring to the market.
Some Cornell University graduates have launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the manufacturing of DogStar TailTalk, which they describe as a translator of dog emotions.
The device consists of a lightweight sensor that wraps around your dog’s tail, monitoring the speed and direction of the tail’s movement with an internal accelerometer and a gyroscope.
Coupled with a phone app, the developers say, it will tell you when your dog is happy, and when his or her tail wag may be a sign of stress.
Scientific studies conducted in Italy have concluded that the prominent direction of a dog’s tail wag is an indicator of whether he’s happy or feeling anxiety, aggression or fear.
Wagging more to the right is said to be an indication of positive feelings.
The developers of the device say the direction of the wag isn’t always discernable to the naked eye: “Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize.”
We’re not so sure about that, just as we’re not so sure that a dog owner, seeing their dog’s tail wagging upon meeting, say, another dog, will have time to fire up the app to determine whether the meeting is going to go well.
Like a lot of canine-oriented technology — from treat poppers to automatic ball throwers to spy cams — this little gizmo takes over a task and/or responsibility that we should be doing ourselves, thereby growing closer and better knowing our dog, as opposed to distancing ourselves from our dog and giving them the features of robots.
As the goofy video above shows, the device may have some value when used remotely, such as learning the dog really doesn’t like the dog walker at all, but that — again — is something a dog owner should be able to ascertain beforehand without gyroscopes or apps.
The design team says it consulted on the project with “professors from the famous College of Veterinary Medicine in Cornell University.”
We think we smell a class project resurfacing for the marketplace. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Current plans call for the TailTalk app to work with iOS or Android phones, and to include features like the “Happiness Overview” function, which tracks a dog’s emotional status over the course of a day, a week, or a month. The monitoring device will be waterproof and “chew-resistant.” We can only hope that dogs, annoyed by having a tail attachment, don’t inadvertently chew through something other than the device.
So far, 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 hit the market in about a year, and we suspect that — just as there are those who are willing to fund it — there will be those willing to buy it.
Because while the dog may sometimes wag his tail, and the tail may sometimes wag the dog, technology seems destined to almost always wag us.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2015 under videos.
Tags: animals, anxiety, app, campaign, cornell, crowdfunding, device, direction, dog, dogs, dogstar, emotions, fear, fearful, happy, high tech, indiegogo, marketing, marketplace, monitor, pets, research, science, stressed, studies, tail, tailtalk, technology, wag, wag direction, wagging, wags
All you have to do is upload a photo and wait as the app translates your clear and colorful image into a fuzzy, less bright and less colorful version.
A dog’s vision is similar to what a human with red-green color blindness sees.
Dogs don’t see as clearly as we do. They have less sensitivity to brightness. And they don’t see shades of grey — not 50 or even 10. All greys, to them, look the same. Because they have only two types of cones (unlike our three) their color vision is limited.
As a result, an Autumn scene like this:
Looks more like this:
And a colorful image of Mardi Gras like this:
Is seen by them like this:
(Photos: Business Insider)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 17th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: app, clarity, colors, cones, dog, dog vision, dogs, eyes, eyesight, how dogs see the world, photos, see, sigh, sight, vision
I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.
But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.
Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first, but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.
The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.
When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.
It’s not, and it doesn’t.
There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.
Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like — I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.
No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.
Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)
There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” — like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.
In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress — might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.
“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”
Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.
It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.
I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.
But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.
I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.
Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.
Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)
And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.
But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?
Posted by John Woestendiek January 9th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rescue, animal welfare, animals, app, blocks, bombs, candy crush, cause, contributions, crushed, dogs, donations, exploit, exploiting, facebook, game, games, hammers, king, levels, mission, money, pet, pet rescue, pet rescue saga, pets, philanthropy, pigs, profits, reality, rescue, rockets, share, video
Meet GeriJoy. He’s a virtual dog. He’s a talking dog. He’s even described as “a compassionate” dog.
He was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be an interactive companion for older people with dementia or memory problems, serving to provide what his makers call “continual stimulation.”
But there’s something about GeriJoy, noble as the idea may be, that I find a little bit patronizing, a little bit insulting, and highly phony. His creation also seems an awfully circuitous and robotic route to take to provide a virtual experience with an animated creature when the real thing is so abundantly available.
Clearly, I’m cynical, or at least wary, when it comes to technology — and perhaps more. It was only yesterday, after all, that I cruelly bashed soft and fuzzy stuffed animals.
Despite that, techno-wizards keep trying, intent, it seems, on trying to capture a no-shed, no-drool, no bark, no worries version of dog — be it stuffed, virtual, or mechanical — and then convince you that their inanimate, or animated, object will love you unconditionally forever.
The truth is, close as they might come — and cloning probably comes closest — they never will. Ha ha. Take that.
If GeriJoy, the virtual dog, is making some old person happy, even if it’s a delusional kind of happy, we’re all for it. If it’s being used as a substitute for human attention, we’re not. With all the growth in and demands on senior services and facilities for the elderly, there’s a tendency to look for quick and easy shortcuts, when the keys to doing job right are already obvious — caring staff, ample staff, staff with hearts.
And maybe some dogs — real dogs.
What I’d rather see is not a nursing home where dozens of residents are lined up in wheelchairs, stroking animated images on their hand held devices, but one that’s taking advantage of programs — or even creating some — in which dog ownership among residents is encouraged, and assistance with those dogs is provided; ones where dogs live under communal ownership, or short of that, therapy dogs visit regularly; one that’s investing in building a qualified and caring staff, as opposed to investing in devices that substitute for real human, or dog, contact.
Here’s how the GeriJoy website touts the product: “Have an older loved one who is lonely and suffers from dementia or geriatric depression? GeriJoy can help. We provide talking pets that are intelligent, compassionate, and available 24/7 to talk about anything, including photos and updates from family.”
The virtual dog can be displayed on a computer or other Internet-connected device. The virtual dog, the website claims, “provides all the availability and unconditional love of an adorable pet, combined with the ability to talk with true intelligence and compassion … It’s as if it lives inside a picture frame, so you get the benefits of pet therapy without any smells, allergies, cleaning up, bites, or food and veterinary bills.”
The virtual dog can provide around the clock stimulation, his developers say, and, in the video snippet above, GeriJoy certainly sounds stimulating, or stimulated, almost orgasmically so. “Oh, you’re so good,” GeriJoy coos as an elderly man strokes the image on the screen.
We’re not sure if that’s what GeriJoy told the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Healthy Aging Forum this month when he appeared before it. He’ll also be on exhibit at the AARP Health Innovation@50+ Tech Expo on May 31 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the AARP blog.
To get GeriJoy, one must subscribe, and pay from $99 to $129 a month. The hardware costs up to $349 for the most sophisticated, Internet-connected version.
GeriJoy was co-founded by Victor Wang, a former Canadian Army officer who did research on human-machine interaction for NASA while at MIT. He says he was inspired to develop the virtual dog by his grandmother in Taiwan, who became depressed while she was living alone.
Wang says GeriJoy can even serve as a watchdog. In one case, a user’s human caregiver was being verbally abusive, and GeriJoy “contacted the user’s daughter to let her know about it.”
“Whatever your loved one wants to know, the companion can find out and report back,” the website says. “It can send and receive messages and photos between you and your loved one, also via the Internet. All this is done through the intuitive metaphor of a talking dog. Your loved one doesn’t even need to know what a computer is.”
We don’t care if the day comes when a virtual dog can cook dinner, push a wheelchair, administer medications or help you understand your health insurance.
A real dog is better — even with his shedding and drooling. Real dogs bring one into, and keep one in, the moment. Real dogs can help you keep a grip on reality, as opposed to pulling you into fantasy land. And real dogs offer a true form of love and validation — even if they can’t say, at least with words, “Oh, you are so good.”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aarp, aging, animals, animated, app, assisted living, computer, dementia, dog, dogs, elderly, gerijoy, health, image, internet, memory, mit, nursing homes, pets, talking, technology, unconditional love, virtual, virtual dog