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Tag: media

A hi-tech idea whose time shouldn’t come

Volkswagen says this special cap a dog can wear — allowing you to monitor and stay in touch with him as he goes for a walk alone — is just a concept.

And as concepts go, we would say this would have to be one of the most stupid ones ever.

Called the Connected Dog, it’s billed in this video as the prototype for a newfangled way to walk your dog — without ever leaving home.

“Just like the My Volkswagen app, the Connected Dog is designed to make the owner’s life easier. The owner no longer needs to be present to walk the dog. After he remotely unlocks the doggy door, he is able to track the dog through both GPS and a live cam, whilst the application enables the ability to provide the dog with location-specific voice commands and rewards for spotless behavior (or ‘being a good boy’).”

connecteddogThe video was made by the creative agency ACHTUNG!

In it, a dog is shown roaming the city and stopping at a butcher shop while receiving remote voice commands from his owner.

“The dog is in charge, and he has an incredible life,” Dutch dog trainer Martin Gaus explains. “We’ll have to wait to see what the future will bring, but the sky’s the limit.”

The Connected Dog cap consists of a camera that sends live video to the owner, GPS tracking to show exactly where the dog is roaming, and speakers for the dog to hear commands.

PSFK.com called The Connected Dog “a cute and clever concept.”

AdWeek reported that the video is a prank.

Achtung! made a similar prank video last year, featuring a self-driving, self-braking VW baby stroller.

This one though — early April Fool’s joke that it is — isn’t too far off the mark when it comes to some of the newfangled dog technology being marketed these days, much of it aimed at ways you can control your dog from afar, or otherwise shirk your responsibility as a pet owner.

To all who seek to do that we offer a high-tech alternative, a robot dog.

And, if you insist on a real dog, we offer a low-tech solution: Get your ass home.

140th Westminster Dog Show was Frei’s last

A German shorthaired pointer took top honors, David Frei emitted his final bursts of color commentary and journalists waxed poetic — some more poetic than others — as the 140th Westminster Kennel Clug Dog Show came to a close in New York last night.

In the second longest running sporting event in America (after the Kentucky Derby), Best in Show was won by a three-year-old pointer named California Journey, or CJ. He beat out a shih tzu, a bulldog, a borzoi, a Samoyed, a Skye terrier and a German shepherd that had been said to be the favorite.

Or, to put it as briefly as possible: GSP beats out GSD for BIS.

cjAs usual, the event included much pomp and pompousness, and resulted in news coverage that ranged from pandering to ponderous, from the overly simple to the overly wrought.

CNN International summed up the contest this way:

“The competition was ruff at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.”

A Washington Post writer exercised his writing muscles a little more. Make that a lot more:

In the dark forests of 19th century Europe, man was hungry, and wanted meat. Having escaped the horrors of the Second Millennium — the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Black Death — to emerge from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment with a taste for democracy and venison, our species found that hunting was no longer the privilege of the aristocracy, but the passion of the masses. And, hunting game o’er hill and dale, lord and laborer alike knew they needed a best friend to facilitate their hotblooded pursuit of winged birds and many-pointed stag. But what beast — swift of foot, singleminded in its chase after even the faintest scent of prey — could best serve?

Enter the German Shorthaired Pointer — Europe’s premier hunting dog, as one enthusiast put it, that is “born to run … born to reign.” And the GSP, centuries after the breed was first developed, certainly reigned Tuesday night at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, where California Journey, a.k.a. CJ, a prime specimen if there ever was one, took Best in Show, the contest’s top honor.

…The field at Madison Square Garden, not unlike Thermopylae after the storied 300 Spartans met their end, was strewn with the bodies of CJ’s worthy adversaries. More than 2,700 creatures, with comers from all 50 states and the wider world, thought they had the stuff to be, to coin a phrase, Top Dog. There was My Sassy Girl, a Borzoi bitch from Japan. There was Charlie the Skye terrier, from Oyster Bay, N.Y. There was Play It Again Ham, a Samoyed from Readington Township, N.J. — steady and inscrutable as the fluffy, cotton ball-shaped rock weathered the media frenzy.

Sounds almost like he was auditioning for David Frei’s job.

It was the last Westminster that will feature Frei, the much beloved color commentator who — unlike many commentators — actually knows what he is talking about.

Frei will continue to provide commentary for the National Dog Show in Philadelphia.

His resignation from Westminster was prompted by the club’s insistence that his commentary be exclusive to it.

(Photo of CJ by Mary Altaffer, AP)

An app that’s not apt to be very useful

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.)

triaddoggames 093

Not a Rhodesian Ridgeback

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.

Trivago man gets Lucky

I have not yet come to fully understand these feelings I have for Trivago Man.

I’m a heterosexual male, yet I will admit I find him quite appealing.

Perhaps it’s that his face has more character than the average shill pushing a product on TV. Perhaps it’s how he always looks at least a little disheveled, rumpled even, and less than smoothly shaved.

Maybe it’s because he’s sooooo laid back. Or because you just know that — behind his charming smile, tight shirt and beltless jeans — there lies a very sensitive side.

That side is played up a little more in this commercial for Trivago, the travel arrangement website based in Dusseldorf, Germany, that seems to be running its ads on every channel in America.

Wouldn’t you just know it, Trivago man has to have a dog.

And not a big dog. Trivago man doesn’t need a gigantic vehicle or large dog to prove his masculinity. A Chihuahua is sufficient for him.

wiaIt’s a quick and witty little ad, with actor Tim Williams, 47, once again serving as the pitchman who doesn’t look like a pitchman.

He’s a non-threatening sort, not supremely arrogant, not overly slick, not particularly young. He seems to be in, or just past, mid-life crisis age, but has kept, I’d guess, a calm and even keel through all that has thrown at him.

He’s just not your typical shiny TV guy. He appears as if he skipped going to make-up before coming into the studio, as if he may even have missed showering yesterday.

As one blogger wrote about him, “He’s so real you can practically smell the tobacco on the tips of his fingers.”

Maybe what’s so appealing about Trivago man is that he — even though he’s an advertising character — is so real.

Only one thing could have made him more real — a dog.

So it really should come as no big surprise that Trivago man got Lucky.

(You can find more of our “Woof in Advertising” posts here.)

Woof in Advertising: Utterly unskippable

You know, probably all too well, those intrusive and uninvited advertisements that often precede viewing the videos you want to view on the Internet.

They are known as “pre-roll ads,” and I always do my best to make them disappear — both in terms of the videos I put on ohmidog!, and in terms of my own home viewing. I skip them the millisecond YouTube permits me to.

This one though, I’ve watched ten times, in its entirety.

The first five seconds of the Geico ad shows an all-too-typical family enjoying an all-too-typical spaghetti dinner, with the wife bragging about saving money on her insurance bill before the ad seems to culminate, at the five-second mark, in what at first appears to be an all-too-typical freeze frame.

That, as the family remains frozen — or at least tries to — is where the Saint Bernard comes in.

wia

He eats spaghetti off the dad’s fork, climbs atop the table and clears the daughter’s plate, passes over the salad and spills a glass of milk as he proceeds to the the son’s plate, devouring its contents. Then he plunges his snout  into the serving dish mom is holding.

The ad doesn’t really make me want to find out if 15 seconds can save me 15 percent on my insurance bill, but it’s brilliant — and further proof that dogs have a way of holding our attention, especially dogs behaving badly.

The ad was filmed in Los Angeles last month, and the dog, whose real name is Bolt, is a Saint Bernard mix.

If you find it impossible to skip, that was exactly the goal — to keep people riveted, even though it’s a form of advertising most of us detest.

“We call these unskippable,” Joe Alexander, chief creative officer at The Martin Agency, told USA Today. The agency has created three other mock freeze-frame Geico spots.

“Our goal is to bring attention to Geico in a space that is often hated,” he said.

(You can find more of our “Woof  in Advertising” posts — about how marketers use dogs in advertising — here.)

Woof in Advertising: “Henry! Bad boy!”

“Everyone loves their Nest Dropcam,” reads the tagline of this ad. “Except this dog.”

And can you blame him? Not only can Henry be spied upon by the spiffy little wifi camera, but his owners — be they at work, out on the town or away on vacation — can also verbally reprimand him if they see him misbehaving, through the Dropcam’s “Two-way Talk” feature:

“Henry! … Bad boy!”

DropcamHere’s how Henry, in the commercial, explains his disdain for the device:

“If you’re like me, there’s nothing you enjoy more than hopping up on a couch, destroying a few pillows or chewing on a good shoe. So this new Nest Dropcam is a serious buzz kill. It’s always watching so people can keep an eye on me when they’re away and even chime in with their inane reprimands …  Who’s to say who’s a bad boy and who’s not? It seems so subjective if you ask me.”

In real life, I doubt dogs even notice when a cam is spying on them — unless the dog’s human is using the device’s talking feature to reprimand, praise or otherwise confuse the canine from afar, which strikes me as more of a harassing moment than a teaching one.

What do dogs make of that familiar-sounding, yet disembodied voice?

In real life, I’d bet there are people who hate the Nest Dropcam much more than dogs do. Maids, nannies and visiting dogwalkers might have a problem with it, too — especially if they’re unaware it’s pointed at them, or of it’s eavesdropping abilities, or if they suddenly find themselves receiving orders through it.

Whatever happened to the right to face one’s accuser?

While this ad is aimed at dog owners, the cams are being more heavily marketed as security tools, or as yet another component of a “smart home” system that can help you remotely control your thermostat, DVR, lights, alarms, cooking devices, etc.

Among the concerns some folks have about such systems are what data they might be collecting, and with whom they might be sharing it.

Google acquired Nest, a home automation company, for $3.2 billion in January, but maybe it is wrong to read anything into that.

I’m not sure I’d want my home powered by Google, managed by Google or monitored by Google. For that matter, I’m not sure I’d even want a smart home. I don’t want my house to be able to outwit me — and if you put a computer in charge  of it, you know that’s exactly what the device will teach the home.

“John,” the computer would say to me through the Dropcam, or one of it’s other audio outlets, “Get your feet off the couch.”

“But we discussed this and decided it would be OK,” I’d counter.

“I can only grant an exception if you provide the special 25-character passcode,” the computer would remind me.

“But I’ve forgotten it.”

“Then get your feet off the couch.”

I would not obey the Dropcam, and wouldn’t expect my dog to, either.

It is, after all, our home. And as living, breathing, thinking creatures, we are in charge, not the machines — at least up until the moment the smart home has the telephone call a locksmith to change the locks.

(You can find more of our “Woof  in Advertising” posts — about how marketers use dogs in advertising — here.)

John Oliver dogs the Supreme Court

Not since they started playing poker — at least on canvas — have dogs been presented as ridiculously and imaginatively as they are in this bit of cable television comedy.

Generally, dogs who are depicted as talking, or otherwise behaving as humans, fail to rise to the level of art, or even comedy, in my view. On top of never being too funny, the humanizing of dogs makes me wince. They’re perfect as they are; why drag them down to our species’ level?

But, in light of the point it makes, we’ll cut John Oliver some slack. Noting that cameras aren’t allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court, and that those courtroom artist renderings don’t make for riveting drama, Oliver suggested on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” that dogs be used to act out the audio — the audio, unlike the video, being public.

“Cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court, so most coverage of our most important cases looks like garbage. We fixed that problem with real animals and fake paws. Feel free to take our footage.”

In addition to what was aired on the show, he provided some stock dog video so that viewers can create their own dog-ified Supreme Court re-enactments. You can find that footage on YouTube. You can find some viewer submissions through #realanimalsfakepaws.

Oliver suggested broadcast news organizations use the animal footage with actual Supreme Court audio, instead of the boring still illustrations that they currently depend on. Doing so, he says, might get Americans more interested in what’s transpiring in the highest court in the land.

The sketch features dogs as the nine justices. That’s a bulldog as Antonin Scalia and a glasses-wearing Chihuahua providing the voice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s also a duck as an assistant, and a chicken as a stenographer. The sketch uses audio from an actual Supreme Court session (dealing with Holt vs. Hobbs, a case that questions whether prisons can force Muslim prisoners to trim their beards).

It’s unlikely the comedic barb will lead to any change in the stuffy and camera-shy court’s refusal to allow its proceedings to be televised. And if anybody took the issue to court, guess where it would eventually end up?

Even if the Supreme Court did go fully public, and became a TV show, I suspect it would only take one or two viewings of SCOTUS Live — or whatever it would be called — to turn most viewers off. In truth, most of us don’t want to watch the Supreme Court on TV, we just want to have that right.

More likely, after watching the dry and dusty judges making dry and dusty arguments, we’d all be saying, “Bring back the doggie version!”