The smartest toy for your feline friend hits Kickstarter

Did you know nearly 6 in 10 domestic cats are overweight? Led by University of Illinois PhD student Dave Cohen, a group of Illinois-based cat lovers Makers have created a purrrr-fect way to combat the growing feline epidemic by designing a robotic “pet for your cat.”

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The startup, aptly named Petronics, has been working on various iterations of Mousr. Capable of tracking the movements of your cat and reacting the way a real mouse would, the end result is the recommended 20 minutes per day of exercise for your feline friend.

The latest iteration of Petronics’ Mousr — which has now made its Kickstarter debut — is equipped with an infrared LED light along with a sensor which measures the overall level of ambient IR light surrounding the device. The team notes that if Mousr is near an object, the LED light is reflected back and detected by the ambient light sensor, activating the device. Directional motion sensors then allow Mousr to interact with and respond to a cat, and are “sophisticated enough to know the difference between running, stalking and pouncing.”

“This has the potential to autonomously keep cats active for the recommended time in instances where the owners can’t take time out of their schedule,” Cohen explained.

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The most recent version of Mousr even features multi-color eyes, a hidden speaker and interchangeable tails.

“We really wanted Mousr to be as small and fast as possible, but we also wanted him to have personality. We have been working with several designers and engineers with a lot of experience in order to ensure Mousr’s industrial design will be able to handle all our physical and technological requirements while remaining sleek and cute,” a company rep writes.

Prior to the inception of the prototype, Cohen had been working on a proof-of-concept sensor management system to keep the power consumption levels of camera-embedded devices low, achieved by only running and activating the cameras when necessary. Therefore, he decided to use the same technology — which is akin to those used in wildlife monitoring — to create a device “that could intelligently utilize coarse, low-power motion sensor data in order to dictate when to collect more informative, power-hungry camera data.”

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“I decided to explore other motion sensor ideas in the pet space and eventually came up with Mousr. I discovered that there is nothing else like it in the marketplace.”

Cohen had decided to share the idea with a Fetch! Pet Care, a company providing house care for owners away on vacation, who immediately agreed there was a void in the market for such a creation.

While the proof-of-concept had been successful, the next phase in the process was creating a prototype that resembled a real product, all while able to be produced at a reasonable cost. Cohen applied for funding through the Cozad Innovation Prize and was fortunate enough to have HAXLR8R as mentors, a program based in China that helps startup hardware companies move forward.

“Many investors tend to shy away from hardware companies in favor of software-based startups because of the complexities involved in the logistics of the supply chain, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. But with advancements in [Atmel powered] 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and emerging programs like HAXLR8R, the barriers to entry for hardware startups are rapidly diminishing,” Cohen concludes.

After first tweeting about this innovation, the Petronics team posed a very interesting question: If you could hack our robot mouse, what’s the first thing you would make it do? 

Well, Makers… what would you make it do?

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