Design Your Life Spotlight: The Petcube

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According to a recent study by the American Time Use Survey, Americans spend about 6—8 hours at work every day. The Humane Society says that 47 percent of homes own at least one dog, and 46 percent of homes have at least one cat. It’s safe to say that we own quite a few pets in this country, and spend far too long away from them at work.

If you’re stuck at work and, well, not actually doing work, you may think about turning your attention to the iPet companion website. This group is dedicated to connecting more pets with people through the internet, by way of remote-controlled toys and a live webcam. You can select one of 12 humane societies in the country, and play with kittens waiting to be adopted. This strategy is designed to get more kittens adopted, since people can see them being playful, energetic and cute.

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But what if you don’t want to play with those pets? What if, instead, you’d like to turn your attention to your bored pet at home, lounging lazily on a couch in the sunshine while it waits for you to come home? Our pick for that is the Petcube, fully funded on Kickstarter back in the fall of 2013.

This device serves several purposes—first of all, it’s a live webcam you can use to keep an eye on your pet throughout the day. This is ideal for those shady pets who wait until you’re backing out of the driveway before they decide to puke in your bed and tear up the carpet (or, more likely, pets who bark all day and annoy the neighbors). There’s a two-way microphone, which means you can hear your pet, and you can speak to it from the Petcube. So potentially, if it starts barking, you can yell at it to stop from miles away. The third and most entertaining feature is the laser pointer you control from the app. It’s a lightweight, simple, and hilarious way to play with your pet while you’re at the office (on your lunch break, of course).

The fun isn’t just for you, either! With the Petcube app, you can share access to camera and let trusted family and friends play with your pet at any time of day.

We tried out the Petcube for about a month, and thought it was great—I have a large, adorable puppy, and although I can bring her to the Paste offices pretty often, I miss her terribly when I’m away. Petcube allows me to keep an eye on her, even if she’s just a shifting black blob across the screen. Actually, during this trial, I discovered she’s been getting up in my bed to sleep while I’m away, something she knows she’s not allowed to do when I’m home. She doesn’t respond as well to the laser pointer as I’d hoped, but I feel like that feature is considerably more of a hit with cats. I tried calling her from the device once, but when she heard my voice she ran to the front door, thinking I was home. Probably won’t use that feature again.

One thing we noticed was that if we connected to the Petcube while she was facing it (a light changes color when it’s being accessed, and the laser turns on automatically), she seemed a little spooked and would walk out of frame. I wish there was a stealth mode of sorts. In total contrast to that, my boyfriend mostly works from home and feels incredibly weird that I can watch him without his knowledge (because on the flip side, a light changing color is hard to people to notice). In this case, I wish there was also the ability to make a small tone when connecting, so he knows I’m watching.

Our Petcube is great for parties, even if the dog isn’t doing anything particularly interesting. “That’s your house? That’s happening now? Is that a porn cam?” are all questions I’ve gotten by showing the webcam to my friends. My answers are yes, yes, and …maybe.

Check out how the Petcube works in the video below:

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