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Tag: technology

Technology run amok … Yuk!

roombapoop

Nature tends to run its own course, just as technology that attempts to control nature tends to run its.

The results, when unforeseen possibilities are thrown into the mix, aren’t always pretty.

The depiction above is by one Jesse Newton, showing what happened on a recent night when nature ran its course, via his dog Evie, and then his trusty Roomba, programmed to clean up all the hair Evie sheds, ran its.

That zig-zagging, curly-cued brown trail recreates the stained path the Roomba left in the Newton’s living room in Arkansas after rolling through a pile of Evie’s poop.

evieEvie is house-broken — programmed, if you will, to take care of those things when the Newton family lets her out each night before bed.

But on this night, somebody forgot to do that.

As everyone slept — Jesse, wife Kelly and son Evan — the robot vacuum did what it is programmed to do every night between midnight and 1:30 a.m.: Roll all across every inch of the living room floor sucking up any debris in its path.

The results were disastrous, Jesse noted in a now-viral Facebook post that warns other Roomba/dog owners of a possibility they might not have envisioned:

“… Poop over every conceivable surface within its reach, resulting in a home that closely resembles a Jackson Pollock poop painting. It will be on your floorboards. It will be on your furniture legs. It will be on your carpets. It will be on your rugs. It will be on your kids’ toy boxes. If it’s near the floor, it will have poop on it. Those awesome wheels, which have a checkered surface for better traction, left 25-foot poop trails all over the house.”

What had happened during the night came to his attention when his young son traipsed through the living room and crawled into bed with him the next morning.

newtonsJesse — and he deserves husband of the year honors for this — let his wife continue sleeping.

He gave his son a bath and put him back to bed, then he spent the next three hours cleaning, including shampooing the carpet.

Kelly Newton says she awoke to the smell of “every cleaning product we own” and knew “something epic had taken place.”

Later, Jesse disassembled the Roomba, cleaning its parts and reassembling it, only to find it didn’t work anymore.

Jesse said he called the store where he had purchased the $400 robot, Hammacher Schlemmer, and it promised to replace it.

I’ve railed before about rushing into new technologies that promise to give us control over nature, wrote a whole book on it, in fact. Those pushing such innovations and rushing them onto the market — most often for the profit they might lead to — often don’t take the time to envision all the little things, and big things, that could go wrong.

That haste can lead to far worse things than a stinky mess and a three-hour clean-up.

We can laugh at this one, as Jesse Newton has admirably managed to do.

But, beneath all the mess, there’s a moral to the story — one that, as we turn to robots for more than vacuuming our floors, we might want to slow down and figure out.

(Photos: Jesse Newton / Facebook)

That dog poop app was a bunch of crapp

pooper-ui-device3Pooper, that new app that promised to send a human to scoop up your dog’s poop on demand — Uber-style — was, as we suspected, a bunch of crap.

Its originators have now confessed — to Newsweek and others — that it was a hoax, or, to put it nicely, “an art project that satirizes our app-obsessed world.”

While a good many media outlets presented the story with at least a little skepticism — skepticism being easier than getting to the bottom of the story — more than a few fell for it hook, line and sinker.

After its initial announcement, Pooper garnered media attention from around the world.

Even the Washington Post treated it as (mostly) legit.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of sign-ups,” Ben Becker told Newseek. Becker came up with a hoax with a friend, Elliot Glass. “People have been signing up to be both poopers and scoopers.”

Newsweek reported:

Becker, a creative director in the advertising world, and Glass, a designer and web developer in Los Angeles, hatched the idea this past winter during a discussion about navel-gazing startup culture.

“We wanted to begin a project that reflected the state of technology—specifically apps,” says Becker in a phone interview. “Taking the visual signifiers and language and the entire world and inhabiting it, inserting an absurd purpose for it. In this case, that would be dog poop.”

Throughout the spring, Becker and Glass spent weekends and late nights plotting “Pooper,” an inane but otherwise believable app that parodies Silicon Valley’s brand of innovation: It purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist unless you are very rich and lazy.

Whether you see it as a satirical art project, social experiment, or scam, the whole thing did show how gullible we, as a species, are; how increasingly gullible (and lazy) much of the news media has become; and how all is not peachy with our economy.

It’s not like 99 percent of us signed up to clean up after the one percent’s dogs, but a lot more signed up to be scoopers than did those thinking they might want to use the service.

Becker and Glass used Uber as a model for the app and website, issued a press release and put together a demo video. They claimed the project was in the beta testing phase in a few major cities.

News organizations couldn’t resist the story.

As Newsweek reported, some publications “wrote about Pooper in a skeptical, this-is-maybe-fake-but-we’re-going-to-write-about-it-anyway voice, which is increasingly how bloggers write up hoaxy stories as a way of scooping up traffic without touching shit.”

(We’d agree, and that’s what we did. Then again, there’s not too many dog poop stories we ignore, and it was one of my websites that, tongue in cheek, promoted the idea of dog poop valets years ago.)

Ludicrous as it may sound, it, and the phony Pooper app, are not entirely outlandish ideas. There are some aging and afflicted folks who might need help with the task. And — apologies to all my very close professional dog walker friends — but is having one walk and clean up after one’s dog really that different?

Becker and Glass told Newsweek they are at work on other undisclosed schemes — even though they’ve already proven that their high tech hijinks are not to be trusted.

That’s kind of their point.

“We’d like people to question what they’re reading in the news, question what they’re looking at online and question what their own relationship is to technology,” Becker said.

Another fun thing to do with your dog that won’t require your actual presence

playdate

Here’s another special report from your favorite worry wart.

No sooner do I bemoan one high-tech invention for dog owners than another comes rolling along, equally worth fretting about.

This one is a 3-inch remotely controlled orange ball, with a high-def camera inside, that you can watch and listen to on your cell phone.

Its makers boast it will “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Let’s hope not.

It’s called PlayDate, now in the Indygogoing stage, and like many other contraptions hitting the market, it’s designed to make all the time your dog spends alone more bearable for him, and more entertaining and guilt-free for you.

The problem I have with that, as I’ve stated before, is how it lets dog owners shrug off the responsibility of dog ownership and diminishes the bond between dog and owner.

What I fret about is that the “future of human-pet interactions” could be long-distance, computer-assisted, virtual and heartless — exactly opposite of what dogs need, and exactly opposite of the reasons for having a dog in the first place.

A Manhattan inventor has come up with what the New York Post called “the next big thing for man’s best friend.”

Company co-founder Kevin Li says he got the idea for PlayDate after adopting his Rhodesian ridgeback-Lab mix, Hulk, three years ago.

“Looking at his sad face every time I left for work, I realized he … needed more time with his best friend.”

So Li (and we hope he worked from home at least a little bit) invented a ball for Hulk to play with — one he could control remotely, issue commands through, observe his dog through, and make squeak.

An adjunct computer-science professor at Columbia, Li described the $249 gadget as “Fitbit meets iPhone localization.”

He has already raised more than $200,000 on Indiegogo and has sold out of pre-orders.

With the rechargable ball, a pet owner can watch and listen to their pet, take photos, and record video, all from their iOS or Android device.

A stabilized camera inside provides real-time HD images. And a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings while allowing the camera — slobber aside — to see out clearly.

There are just three simple steps, its makers say: Download the free app, connect to wi-fi and “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Sorry, but talk like that scares me, as do a few other things.

The shell of the ball is made of a strong, chew-resistant polycarbonate, designed to withstand rambunctious play, according to its makers.

I hope that has been well tested, because I’d prefer not to think about what swallowing a little camera and a lithium polymer battery might do to a dog (or cat).

In the world of pet products, many a toy marketed as indestructible has proved otherwise.

Even PlayDate’s makers are saying that part might take some fine tuning:

“As we put PlayDate’s smart ball in front of more dogs and cats, we may discover the need to make aspects of its design more robust; any pet owner will tell you there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy. We have purposefully designed features like the replaceable outer shell with this in mind. Additional design changes may be required as we perform more testing.”

And what, I wonder, will be the effect of communicating with — and issuing orders to — your dog via an orange ball? Seeing an orange ball wandering around the house on its own, and hearing a disembodied voice come from it would, at the very least, be confusing, I’d think.

I’m all for keeping a dog active, engaged and feeling loved when the owner is away. But it’s a mistake to assume that technology can make up for failing to give your dog adequate attention.

And — needless to say — one shouldn’t get a dog in the first place if one is unwilling or unable to give him or her their time.

Face-time, I mean, with no cameras, or wi-fi, or remote controls involved.

Before we usher human-pet interaction “into the future,” it might be wise to question whether we really need to take that trip.

Didn’t we pretty much have it down just fine already — most of us, anyway?

(Photo: from PlayDate’s website)

Would you let a drone walk your dog?

We report often on dog-related technology here on ohmidog! — both that which is budding and that which has found its way to the marketplace — and a good 90 percent of the time we have nothing positive to say about it.

Including this time.

A drone that walks your dog? No. No. And no.

This is just one man’s experiment, but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.

Here’s the thing about dog-centered technology: It’s usually not centered on dogs at all.

Instead, it is aimed at making the lives of dog owners easier. Generally, it is something that relieves dog owners of responsibility, allowing them to both spend less time with their dog and feel less guilty about it.

Like machines that, on a programmed schedule or through remote operation, can dispense a treat to your dog while you’re away.

Or a machine that will play fetch with your dog while you’re away, or just too tired to go to all that effort.

And all those other contraptions, apps and gizmos that allow you to cut down on face to face time with your dog, thereby eroding the one thing that counts — the bond between the two of you.

Those devices aren’t really making it any easier for you to live your life. Your dog, on the other hand, is.

The video above shows Lucy, a golden retriever from Connecticut, being walked by a drone.

Jeff Myers, the mind behind this video, said he wanted to show it could be done — always a dangerous reason to do something, especially when it’s the sole reason.

Myers lives in New York City, and he borrowed his mother’s dog for the experiment, in which dog is leashed to drone and drone is controlled by an app.

It’s just a concept Myers says.

So too, at one point, was dog cloning. Those concepts — good or bad — have a way of turning into business enterprises once the realization that there could be profits kicks in.

This NPR report about the dog walking drone and other technological developments for dogs, concluded, “The future is here and it’s pretty darn cute.”

Pretty darn cute?

Yeah, right up there with using your car to walk your dog:

Police turn to eagles to bring down drones

I’m not sure if it’s the technophobe in me or the nature-lover in me, but something about this video makes me smile inside.

Police in the Netherlands, concerned about the security threat posed by unmanned aerial drones, have enlisted eagles to bring them down.

The Dutch National Police Force announced that they’ve partnered with Danish company, Guard from Above, to train the birds, according to Global News.

Just as with police dogs, there’s a potential that law enforcement might misuse its new-found ally. There are probably questions that could be raised from an animal rights perspective, as well. On top of that, I’d hate to think that eagles were somehow being used to abridge free speech.

But police officials emphasized the eagles won’t be going after law-abiding drones, just those that are posing a security threat.

“There are situations in which drones are not allowed to fly. This has almost always to do with security,” Mark Wiebe, innovation manager of the National Police, said in a press release. (No need to click that link unless you speak Dutch.)

The video above is from a demonstration National Police put on last Friday, during which one of the trained birds successfully tracked and brought down a standard commercial drone in mid-air.

It’s almost as if the regal birds are taking back the sky, which, in our view, was their’s to begin with.

Yes, I’m definitely seeing too much symbolism in it, but watching still makes me say, “Go Eagles!”

Uber-like dog walking app takes a hit after walker loses a dog in Brooklyn

duckie

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.”

duckie2In this case, Duckie’s owners say it took an hour for the company to contact them after Duckie was lost, lessening the possibility of her being quickly found.

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)

Prototype device allows blind people to keep tabs on the health of their guide dogs

mealin

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows blind people to better monitor the health and well-being of their guide dogs.

The researchers are fine tuning a vibrating harness that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and shares the information with the dog’s handler, according to NC State News.

“Our goal is to let guide dog handlers know when their dogs are stressed or anxious,” said Sean Mealin, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the technology.

Mealin is blind and works with his own guide dog, Simba.

“This is important because it is widely believed that stress is a significant contributing factor to early retirement of guide dogs and other service animals,” Mealin said. “The technology may also be able to help handlers detect other health problems, such as symptoms of heat exhaustion.”

The researchers developed a specialized handle, equipped with two vibrating motors, that attaches to a guide dog’s harness.

harnessOne motor is embedded in the handle by the handler’s thumb, and vibrates – or beats – in time with the dog’s heart rate.

When the dog’s heart rate increases, so does the rate at which the motor beats.

The second motor is embedded in the handle near the handler’s pinky finger, and vibrates in synch with the dog’s breathing. The vibration increases and decreases in intensity, to simulate the dog breathing in and out.

“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of the paper.

“This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public.”

The paper, “Towards the Non-Visual Monitoring of Canine Physiology in Real-Time by Blind Handlers,” was presented yesterday at the Second International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction, in Johor, Malaysia.

(Photos: NC State News)