Petcube Lets You Play With Your Pets When You’re Not At Home [Review]

November 14, 2016

2:20 pm

As a pet parent, one of the hardest things about raising a furry friend is the time you spend apart. Whether you’re traveling, at school, or in the office, there are very few options for you to really interact with them other than watching them on a camera.

Back in 2013, one startup was able to successfully build on this problem, and more than successfully crowdfunded ($251K) their solution, the Petcube. Though they have recently launched another campaign for an updated version, as well as an interactive treat giving device, we decided to give the original a whirl and see what our two test dogs had to bark about it.

Over a two month period, we used the Petcube in regular day-to-day use, and while out of town (with pet sitters). Overall the Petcube did exactly what it was designed to do, and it will generally depend on your particular pet if they will interact with it.

Getting Started

If there is one thing to appreciate about IoT devices, it’s when they make the setup process as easy as possible. With the Petcube, they nailed it.

Between downloading an app and following the step-by-step process, it takes only a few minutes to get up and running. Once you have created an account and are in the actual app, there is a slight learning curve to all the icons within it, but overall it’s easy to pick up and understand.

Features/Specs

One part home monitoring device and two parts pet entertainment machine, the Petcube works almost entirely as advertised. There are only two minor issues we found through using the device: using it in low-light environments and occasional laser lag. Beyond that, you can play, speak to, and keep an eye on your furry friends.

The original Petcube features a 720p HD camera with a 138 wide angle lens. That means you can clearly watch your home and pets, and get a pretty decent area of coverage to boot. Because the Petcube is on your home WiFi, it’ll stream as well as your connection. We had absolutely no issues with connectivity during the two months we tried it. Although it does not support the emerging WiFi networks (and 128 bit encryption), 2.4GHz is plenty enough to stream 720p and use the two-way audio.

As far as audio goes, the addition of two-way audio is super helpful. If your pets are out of the viewing area, you can always call them over. Then you pop the laser on and the fun begins. Obviously your pets can’t talk back, but my lazy dog has a tendency of barking back when I spoke through it, especially when I was giving him the verbal side-eye for trying to eat my backpack. Throughout the test period, especially as the seasons started to shift, it become increasingly difficult to see through the camera as it became darker earlier in the day. Unless you leave a light on or have natural light, the camera won’t do much good for you. Regardless of the connection, we also found it to have occasional lag with where you want the laser to go, but that was not always the case.

Overall, one of my dogs had zero interest in the laser, but my crazy chiweenie loved it. As far as home monitoring goes, it has a built in motion sensor and it let’s you hear what’s going on, which is pretty great. There is also an optional recording subscription feature, Petcube Care, that allows you to constantly record for days at a time as well if you’re into that kind of thing. If not, you can always open the app and record what you are seeing in front of you, which is where our test video comes from.

The Community

One of the best parts about Petcube is that, even if you don’t have time to play with your furry friends, you can set it up with public hours so others can access it. With a myriad of options and settings, you can turn audio off (for security), turn it into just a public feed, or give them full controls to everything. This works both ways in that many shelters and rescues take advantage of this so that you can see what cute little animals they have up for adoptions.

As mentioned earlier, even if you don’t have the device, download the app. It’s a lot of fun playing around with random animals. Cats seem to interact the most with the laser. Although I was hesitant to mention this, nobody has control over what crazy things your pets will do on camera. I accidentally stumbled upon two cats getting it on. Awkward, funny, whatever you want to call it, that happened.

Design

The Petcube has a very “iPhone-y” feel to it. It comes in three colors – black, silver, and rose gold – and is a mix of brushed aluminum and a glassy cover for the laser and camera lens. The device itself is also quite small, only 4 x 4 x 4, so it should fit in with your regular home decor, and it only weighs 1.3 pounds.

On a rare occasion we found the camera and full length of the cord caused the camera to slowly start to turn throughout the day, but we adjusted that by repositioning it. There is also a rubber base on the bottom that should reduce it from moving much as well. For the app, it’s part-social network and part controller for the device itself.

Between the device design and the app, the Petcube should fit into most home environments. It’s also small that it shouldn’t be too intrusive if you have some sort of feng shui thing going on, but then you probably don’t have pets anyways.

Pros and Cons

Highs

  • Easy to setup
  • Video stream looks great
  • Talking to my dog is hilarious
  • Great for monitoring and interacting with your fur kids

Lows

  • Not great in low-light conditions
  • Can be laggy at times

Overall Thoughts

Should you buy the Petcube? If you have an engaging pet, absolutely! Even if you don’t have a pet, you should just download the free app and play with the various pet rescues and shelters that use it as well. Granted not every pet will interact with the laser, you can always go to the dollar store and get a cheap one to do a quick test run. If they do interact with it, prepare for some high quality entertainment and a bit of added comfort that your pet isn’t bored all day.

We give the Petcube a 4.5 out of 5 for all of these reasons, and due to the only slight issue with occasionally laser responsiveness and it not working all too well in low-light conditions.

Price: $140 + optional recording subscription

Where to buy: Petcube, Amazon

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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