Ford wanted to explore how its automotive technology could be used to solve problems in other areas of life so it started an initiative it calls Interventions. With the active noise-cancelling technology, its design team chose to focus on dogs.

Many pets are averse to fireworks noise, and particularly dogs with their sensitive hearing. The UK RSPCA estimates that 45 percent of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.

“Many animals find fireworks scary – and compared to people, dogs can hear things that are four times further away, and across a much wider range of frequencies,” said Graeme Hall, a UK dog trainer known as The Dogfather.

“Preparing in advance of firework displays is the key – and part of that is to identify a place where your pets feel safe and happy.”

The kennel, which is a prototype at this stage, combines high-density cork cladding for soundproofing with the active noise-cancelling that comes via speakers. Inside it, fireworks noise is reduced to a level that won’t disturb a canine’s keen hearing.

Another project in the Interventions series, the Lane-Keeping Bed that keeps couples on their side of the mattress, recently went viral, bringing more attention to the earlier Noise-Cancelling Kennel.

“We wondered how the technologies we use in our cars could help people in other situations,” said Ford of Europe brand content manager Lyn West. “Making sure dogs and their owners could enjoy a stress-free New Year’s Eve seemed like the perfect application for our Active Noise Control system.”

Doggie design is an ever popular field among consumers, with IKEA launching a range of furniture just for the animals, tech company Petcube launching Internet-of-Things products that allow you to play with your pet remotely, and inventor Dominic Wilcox even designing a contemporary art exhibition for dogs to enjoy.

Ford’s noise-cancelling kennel shields dogs from fireworks [Dezeen]

Are you heading on a dog-friendly holiday this year? From beautiful beachfront trails to woodland wanders, Parkdean Resorts have shared their suggestions on the best UK dog walks for everyone to enjoy.

Situated in Cornwall’s South East Corner, this picture-perfect route starts in the idyllic village of Cawsand and leads right across to Whitsand Bay in Cornwall. With seriously stunning views along the whole route of the walk, it makes an excellent journey for both dogs and owners to enjoy. Dogs are welcome all year round and can even enjoy a play in the sand along the coastline.

From soft sandy beaches to quaint village markets, it’s no wonder that this route is one of the best in the UK. Start in the fishing village Craster, and head across the rugged coastline for absolutely beautiful views. Top tip: pack a picnic for you and your dog to enjoy once you arrive at Dunstanburgh Castle. You’ll absolutely want to soak in the views.

Experience the beauty of Wales with this scenic route, perfect for enjoying with your dog. With breathtaking mountain ranges, quirky local villages and peaceful lakes, you will love every moment. Begin your walk at the Welsh Venison Centre close to the village of Talybont on Usk, and continue over the stunning hills. Make sure not to forget your camera — you’ll want to capture this.

This coastal walk is best for exploring the long stretch of sand on the East Riding of Yorkshire — and your dog will absolutely love it. From splashing in the sea to playing in the unspoilt sand, they can run around as much as they’d like. We recommend continuing on along the sea front and discovering Flamborough Castle for yourself.

6 of the most scenic dog walking routes in the UK [Living Country]

 

Horses aren’t like dogs. Whereas the one is always around the house, the other spends much of its time off in a pasture. So, how is a horse-owner supposed to keep track of what their animal is doing? Well, a group of Swedish entrepreneurs believe that their HoofStep system is the answer.

Mounted within a head harness, the actual HoofStep device sits against the horse’s forehead.

Among other things, it contains a GPS unit, a compass, an inertial measurement unit (which is an accelerometer/gyroscope combo), and a microprocessor. Utilizing this hardware, it tracks both the horse’s location, and its head movements – based on the latter, it can reportedly determine what the animal is up to. Data is wirelessly transmitted by 3G cellular or Wi-Fi (depending on location) to a base unit, which in turn communicates with an iOS/Android app on the user’s smartphone.

An artificial intelligence algorithm proceeds to learn the horse’s normal behaviour. If the creature strays from that pattern, the owner is alerted by the app. According to the designers, the technology is capable of detecting things like colic, laminitis, foaling, stress, decreased activity levels, and pain.

Users can also utilize the app whenever they want, simply to check where their horse is and what it’s doing – detectable activities include eating, rolling, lying down, walking and galloping. Additionally, the app keeps a record of how the horse’s behaviour varies over time.

The head unit weighs 149 grams (5.3 oz), is IP67 water-resistant, and is claimed to run for about 21 days on one three-hour charge of its battery. The base unit runs for eight hours per charge, although it can also just be plugged into a wall outlet – it can manage up to four head units at once.

Should you be interested, HoofStep is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of SEK 2,499 (about US$270) will get you a single-horse system with a 12-month data subscription, assuming it reaches production. Retail will be 55 percent higher.

A somewhat similar system, developed by French startup Equisense, additionally tracks the performance of equestrian horses.

HoofStep keeps tabs on wandering horses’ habits [New Atlas]

 

If you’re like most dog- or cat-owners, you don’t like leaving your critter at home alone all day with nothing to do. As a result, we’ve seen several robotic pet-entertaining devices recently hit the crowdfunding platforms. While some feature cameras or treat-dispensers, GomiBall keeps things simple.

Not unlike the existing Sphero (which isn’t a pet toy), GomiBall takes the form of an internally-motorized Bluetooth-equipped ball that can be remotely controlled using an iOS/Android smartphone app. That said, it can also be put on programmed auto-start/auto-stop cycles, so it will head out and autonomously roll across the floor while the pet-owner is out of the house – it can be set to “behave” in any of 12 different manners.

The idea is that dogs or cats will then chase after it, providing them with some much-needed exercise and mental stimulation. Just to make things more interesting, when its integrated sensors detect that it’s been bitten, the ball vibrates. The device itself is reportedly rugged, waterproof, and its outer shell is made of FDA-approved polycarbonate.

If users can’t find it when they get home, a function on the app can be used to make the ball’s internal multi-colored LEDs start flashing, plus it will emit an audible signal. One three-hour wireless charge of its lithium-polymer battery should be good for a claimed 15 hours of use.

Should you be interested, GomiBall is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$79 will get you one, when and if it reaches production. The planned retail price is $149.

LavvieBot Purrsong ($379)

By far the worst thing about living with cats is the litter box. Having to clean out your feline’s toilet is a job everyone hates, so what if you could automate the process? That’s the idea behind the Lavviebot Purrsong. This Wi-Fi connected litter box can clean away poop and pee after your cat goes, shifting it into a drawer that you can open to dump. There are filters to reduce the smell and a clever grid shelf to stop them from tracking litter through your home. Simply open the top to keep it stocked with fresh litter and empty the drawer occasionally and you’re good to go. The phone app will alert you when litter is running low and give you a breakdown of your cat’s toilet activity, should you feel the need to check. It’s a pretty bulky gadget, but we think the price is worth paying for freedom from litter box duty.

Inubox ($1,200)

Dog owners can also snag a self-cleaning toilet, designed for people with no yard.  The tray is coated in hydrophobic material and it can sense weight, so it knows when your dog has gone and automatically rises to clear the waste away. It can also dispense a treat to encourage them to come back when they need. It’s an enormous device, so you will need some space, and it’s expensive, but if you can’t take your dog outside easily then it could prove to be very handy. The waste goes into a litter-like substance that clumps up and it gets packaged into a bag that you can remove via a small hatch that opens up.

Treat your furry friend with the best pet tech at CES 2019 [Digital Trends]

If you own a dog, you know how often you’re outside on walks. And chances are, you’ve probably encountered plenty of litter while out with your pup — regardless of if you live in the city or the suburbs. And now, a new initiative in Scotland is hoping you can multitask while taking out your pet — by picking up any garbage you may see during your walk.

The “Paws on Plastic” was created by primary school teacher Marion Montgomery; she was inspired when her late dog Murphy, who passed away in 2015, started picking up trash during their walks. He’d bring the discarded objects to her, forcing her to choose to either litter it again or discard it responsibly. When her current dog, Paddy, started to do the same, she realized she could encourage other pet owners in her community to follow her (and Murphy and Paddy’s) lead.

“A lot of dogs pick up plastic bottles,” she told The Scotsman. “But once your dog has picked it up, you can’t really throw it away, so most people will take it with them and put it in a bin. It’s like dogs have been telling us to do this for years. I’ve just given it a name and encouraged folks to do it a bit more.”

Paws on Plastic encouraged dog owners to pick up at least two pieces of trash during every time they take their pets out to relieve themselves or get some exercise — and already, they have more than 1,000 participants across Scotland sharing their experience.

“The strength of Paws on Plastic is its simplicity,” Montgomery explained. “Dog owners are already out there walking their dogs every day. We see the litter. We have the spare bag in our pocket and it just takes a second to pick up a couple of pieces. No extra time or effort is required.”

While Paws on Plastic is currently based in Scotland, it’s something that pet owners can do all over the world. And if you aren’t a pet owner, that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part to help clean up the planet by simply picking up litter when you see it!

“Paws on Plastic” Campaign Encouraging People to Pick Up Litter While Walking Their Dogs [Green Matters]

If you own multiple dogs and/or cats, then you may be familiar with the problem of one animal “stealing” food from another’s bowl. Italian artificial intelligence firm Volta has set out to keep that from happening, with its pet-recognizing Mookkie.

Currently being showcased at CES 2019, Mookkie features a removable magnetically-mounted bowl, along with a front-facing wide-angle camera. As long as the device’s designated canine/feline user isn’t nearby, a transparent polycarbonate cover blocks access to any food that’s in the bowl.

Once the animal approaches the device, however, an integrated microprocessor utilizes a deep neural network to authenticate their identity via facial recognition. If it determines that they’re the “right” dog or cat, the bowl cover is temporarily drawn back, allowing them to eat – it’s not unlike the face-unlock feature now available on some smartphones.

Utilizing a smartphone app, pet-owners can receive notifications (including videos) when the animal has eaten, along with alerts that the bowl is empty – Mookkie can see down into the bowl, and is able to visually determine when all the food is gone. As an added bonus, the device also has a built-in night light, to help pets find their bowl in the dark.

Artificially-intelligent pet bowl is made to prevent food-theft [New Atlas]

Most dogs are lucky enough to get a regular walk in the great outdoors, but cats are usually left at home. Looking like a giant hamster wheel, the Little Cat is an app-driven machine designed to give our feline friends some much-needed exercise – although whether they’d actually use it remains to be seen.

The Little Cat is far from the first exercise wheel for cats, but it looks like the most interactive one we’ve come across. Earlier devices like the One Fast Cat were just big felt hamster wheels that you’d almost have to physically put the cat on yourself. Considering how much trouble it can be to get a cat to use a scratching post rather than a nice new couch, we wouldn’t have much faith that it would figure out how to use those wheels.

The Little Cat’s biggest selling point is that it has a built-in incentive – an LED light that moves up the center of the ring. As anyone who’s ever flicked a laser pointer around on the floor knows, cats go nuts for those lights, and this might be the missing ingredient that gets their lazy butts onto the treadmill. In some of the videos it seems to work, but in others the cat is far more interested in the LED and looks visibly uncomfortable as soon as the floor starts to move under it.

Where other wheels are passive and only move when the cat starts running, the Little Cat can be set to move on its own at different speeds, like a treadmill. It’s controlled through a smartphone app, letting users set the speed, move the LED around, watch the cat through a live camera feed and even record voice samples to play back when you’re not home. The app also works like a fitness tracker, recording your pet’s run data and apparently using that to develop a customized exercise plan.

Pet Ding, the company behind it, hasn’t given any details on availability or pricing just yet, but the Little Cat is on display at CES this week. Check it out in action in the video below.

Smart pet treadmill might get fat cats up and running [New Atlas]

If your dog has ever taken off on you at an off-leash park, then you’ll know the frustration of trying to figure out where they’ve gone. And while there are already pet-tracking devices that can help, they definitely have some shortcomings. The Findster Duo+ system takes a unique approach to getting around those limitations.

Existing pet-tracking devices tend to fall into one of two categories: Bluetooth and GPS. The less-expensive Bluetooth devices are attached to the dog’s collar, with an app subsequently showing the user which direction to go in order to find the animal. Unfortunately, though, these devices have quite a short range – usually no more than about 200 ft (61 m).

GPS pet-trackers also get attached to the collar, then proceed to continuously acquire and transmit their geographical coordinates via a cellular signal. Utilizing an app, users can track the location of their dog from anywhere there’s coverage. The downside, however, is that monthly data fees are required.

The Findster system is likewise GPS-based, although it requires no cellular service. Along with an iOS/Android app, it consists of a collar-worn Pet module, and a Guardian module which the user carries with them. Utilizing the company’s MAZE technology, the Pet module independently acquires its GPS coordinates, but then uses an ISM-band radio signal to continuously transmit that data to the Guardian. That module in turn uses Bluetooth to relay the information to the app.

On that app, users see the relative locations of the Guardian and the Pet modules on a satellite map of the area – in other words, the locations of themselves and their dog. They can then set out to reclaim their critter, with the positions of the modules being updated on the map as both parties move around.

In order to test the system, we put the Pet module on a dog who was then repeatedly led off into the woods at different locations. To make a long story short, yes, Findster did allow us to find him. There are a few user tips to keep in mind, though.

For one thing, there’s often a substantial lag as the app updates the two modules’ locations. This can be frustrating if you’re hurrying to catch up with a dog that’s on the run, and that could frequently be changing direction. More than once, by the time that the app updated our positions, it turned out that we were no longer heading toward the dog. Fortunately, hitting the GPS button on the display (arrow in lower right corner) allows you to manually update the locations.

Speaking of that button, we also discovered that if you want the map to automatically swivel around on the screen (so that north on the map is always pointing north in real life), you need to tap that button twice – you tap it once to center the Guardian on the map, and then tap it again. This is important to know, as it makes tracking the dog much easier. If the map shows that the Pet module is screen-left of the Guardian, for instance, you know to simply walk to your left.

Additionally, although constant internet access is not required, you do need to get online for about 20 seconds when first starting out on your walk – this is necessary for the system to acquire the initial GPS data. If you’re still out and about two hours later, you’ll be required to do an update for optimum accuracy. It should also be noted that if you want to minimize internet usage once you’ve left home, you’ll need to preload a satellite map of the off-leash park (or wherever it is that you’re going) before heading out.

Along with the map, the app also offers a Radar display. Not unlike some Bluetooth-based tracking apps, this simply shows the Guardian at the bottom of the screen, with the Pet module out in front of it. The idea is that by turning their phone from side to side, users can figure out what direction their dog is in, and how far away it is. In practise, though, we found that the Pet icon moved around quite erratically, and couldn’t really be relied upon to locate the dog – we were told that the average GPS errorwas likely to blame.

There are, however, some other useful app features that did certainly work for us. One of these, Virtual Leash, alerts users if the dog wanders a given distance away from them at any time during the walk. Safe Zone, on the other hand, tells them if the pooch has left a given area that they’ve predefined on the map. Danger Zone is similar, although it alerts users if the dog enters a predetermined “forbidden area.”

As an added bonus, the Pet module is equipped with an inertial measurement unit (an accelerometer/gyroscope combo), allowing it to function as a canine fitness tracker. On the app, this lets users track daily/weekly data such as time and distance walked, time spent resting on walks, and number of steps taken.

Battery life for the two modules is claimed to be up to 12 hours per charge, and they certainly had plenty of juice left after we used them for about two continuous hours in sub-freezing temperatures – the iPhone 5c we were using needed a recharge long before they did. It should also be noted that they’re both IP67 waterproof, meaning that they can withstand being submerged to a depth of one meter (3.3 feet) for half an hour.

Finally, we should mention the connectivity range. Although much better than what’s possible with Bluetooth, Findster’s radio signal is rated to a maximum of 3 miles (4.8 km) in “open, outdoor environments.” While that should likely be enough to keep tabs on your dog at the off-leash park, you might want to think about a more traditional cellular GPS system for scenarios where dogs could really get some distance.

Findster Duo+ is available now, priced at US$150 for a setup that includes one of each module – up to three Pet modules can be tracked simultaneously. If you do pick up a system, we strongly advise initially trying it out under controlled conditions, just to get the hang of it.

Review: Findster Duo Plus offers fee-free GPS pet-tracking [New Atlas]