Former Microsoft engineer invents video games for dogs

Aug 11, 2015, 11:02 AM | Updated: 3:20 pm
Igloo the border collie, one of 100 dogs beta-testing the software, is ready to play with the Pup P...
Igloo the border collie, one of 100 dogs beta-testing the software, is ready to play with the Pup Pod at the KIRO Radio studios. (Mynorthwest/Jillian Raftery)
(Mynorthwest/Jillian Raftery)
LISTEN:

It’s obvious people in the Pacific Northwest will go to extreme measures to keep their canines happy while they’re at work.

Now a former Microsoft engineer and dog lover turned entrepreneur has a new idea: video games for dogs. He says the idea was born when he adopted a rescue dog that loved to watch TV with him. It took off from there.

“When the Xbox Kinect came out, I looked at that product and thought, ‘Well, why can’t a dog play a video game?’ Because you don’t need a controller anymore,” said Erick Eidus, inventor of the Pup Pod.

That’s how Eidus came up with the Pup Pod. It’s an interactive, multi-level game that looks a like a red little snowman and detects when a dog is around.

“Inside it, we’ve added a bunch of wireless technology and sensors,” Eidus said. “So, we have a motion-detection sensor up here at the top. There’s a speaker, accelerometer inside here, and obviously, like processors and batteries.”

The Pup Pod consists of “levels” the dog has to accomplish. It runs through a series of challenges with the Pup Pod, which connects to another device that dispenses treats when the dog completes a “level.” For example, level one simply consists of the dog approaching the Pup Pod when it makes a sound similar to a bag of treats being opened. When the dog is close enough, the level is complete and the dog gets a treat.

And the whole thing connects to Wi-Fi so you can check in with your dog’s progress. The data even uploads to a server to see how pets stack up against each other.

More than 100 dogs have tested the program, with additional games in the works to cater to different breeds, attitudes, and ages. For example, one option could be replacing a treat dispenser with a ball thrower for active puppies.

Throughout the process, the biggest challenge is using human engineering to get into a dog’s head and develop software tailored to dogs.

“So we try to learn about what would a computer look like if a dog invented it? And really try to answer that question from a dog’s perspective,” Eidus said. “It’s another level of mental gymnastics when, you know, the dog’s sense of smell is just off the scale compared to a human’s, and the dog’s sense of hearing is off the scale compared to humans, and the way they process information is just really different.”

Eidus hopes the data they collect and the software they develop can do some good, like help move animal research forward. He also wants to develop a game that can help animals that were abused, like his dog – who is a little too skittish to try the Pup Pod – come out of their shells.

“My dog is a rescue and has some big issues around food and my dog would kind of be in the category of a fearful dog,” Eidus said. “So the way I look at it is we just haven’t invented the right game for him yet.”

Next month, Eidus is taking Pup Pod directly to the people and the dogs, with a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for the first release of game systems.

Local News

(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

35 Marysville teachers receive layoff notices after voters reject levy extensions

Thirty-five teachers in the Marysville School District received layoff notices last week, after voters rejected levy measures that would have funded 14-18% of the district’s overall budget.
1 day ago
...
Gwen Baumgardner

Car thefts are on the rise in the region

In Seattle, there have been 2,075 vehicle thefts already this year. Seattle police reported that approximately 86% of stolen cars are recovered.
2 days ago
Kirkland, WA (Getty Images)...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Tax hikes to join booming property values in East King County

Property values in select cities in East King County have skyrocketed, leading King County Assessor John Wilson to warn homeowners about noticeable increases in property taxes.
2 days ago
Pike Place...
MyNorthwest Staff

Enraged Pike Place motorist pleads not guilty to assault with a motor vehicle charges

A man arrested for an assault stemming from a Pike Place incident pleads not guilty in King County Superior Court.
3 days ago
tukwila...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Prolific Seattle-area smash-and-grab ATM thieves formerly arrested for murder

60 robberies involving trucks driving into local stores to steal ATMs and cash registers may be solved with the arrest of two men at a Tukwila motel Friday morning.
3 days ago
schools...
Dalton Day

Rival to First Student exposes Seattle Schools’ fumbled bidding war

First Student's competition has accused Seattle Public Schools of “arbitrarily and improperly” awarding a district contract to First Student.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Former Microsoft engineer invents video games for dogs