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Teen's invention lets you remotely chat with your dog — and give it treats

\"So I was telling that French poodle....\" Brooke Martin's invention is meant to lessen your pooch's separation anxiety even if you're far from home.Courtesy of GeekWire

If you’re a dog owner and have ever felt bad about leaving Fido, Otis or Buster at home alone, here’s a new technology just for you.

Meet the iCPooch, an Internet-enabled device powered by a Raspberry Pi computer that allows dog owners to video chat with their pups and automatically deliver a dog treat from afar.

Spokane venture capitalist Tom Simpson pointed out this amazing contraption and the inspiring Spokane ninth-grader, Brooke Martin, who invented it. Martin actually pitched the concept at a Startup Weekend event in Spokane last year, getting a standing ovation.

Her newly formed company has already added a full-time chief executive officer, tech industry vet James Pelland, filed for patents and raised a bit of cash from Simpson and others. It also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, looking to raise $75,000. (The campaign, which started last month, has topped $6,000).

Brooke Martin with her dog Kayla.Courtesy of GeekWire

Of course, with an invention like this, there has to be a back story, and there is.

“My dog Kayla suffered from separation anxiety, so I thought it would be really cool to be able to video chat with her while I was away from home to make sure she was OK,” Martin explains in an email to GeekWire. “The idea of delivering her a treat seemed liked it would really make her happy if I could figure out how to do it.”

Martin, a student at North Central High School in Spokane and a finalist for the 3M Young Scientist Award, is still tinkering with the technology behind iCPooch. She’s hoping to get the devices into stores soon. Right now, the company is in the prototype phase.

Here’s more on how the thing works from the Kickstarter page:

With the iCPooch device connected to a home wireless Internet router, you can deliver a treat from a smartphone, tablet or computer no matter where you are. The device also has an adjustable mounting bracket so that you can attach a tablet or smartphone (not included) and video chat with your pet! The tablet/smartphone operates independently of the iCPooch device, allowing you to use Skype video chat software to auto-answer your calls (we are also working on our own video chat solution). As long as your smartphone/tablet has a microphone and a camera (most all do) and is connected to the Internet, you can video chat with Fido at eye level, and in the separate iCPooch app deliver a treat. An estimated 13 million-plus dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and we know that pet owners do, too!The iCPooch device is a combination of a miniature vending machine and a computer. The device acts like a computer, using a motherboard (Raspberry Pi) and Wi-Fi module to connect to the Internet. The computer is attached to a motor that is activated when the owner of the device gives it the “drop treat” command from their remote computing device (smartphone, tablet, PC, etc). A removable/re-loadable sleeve inside the device houses the treats, and one treat is pushed out by the motor arm each time the motor is activated.

\"So I was telling that French poodle....\" Brooke Martin's invention is meant to lessen your pooch's separation anxiety even if you're far from home.Courtesy of GeekWire

Now, one of the things that I keep thinking about with this device is that photo above of the dog just staring at the screen. I can imagine a dog, especially a food-oriented beast like my 80-pound mutt, Henry, getting a bit obsessed with this contraption. (I also can imagine Henry cracking the code on the dispenser, gobbling up all of the treats. Remind me to tell you the story of how he figured out how to get into a chicken coop one time while on a house stay through

In addition to selling the device, iCPooch also plans to sell its very own dog treats. (A smart business tactic that creates a nice ongoing revenue stream).

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