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Remotely Watch and Give Pets Treats With Petcube Bites [Review]

August 28, 2017

11:30 am

Anyone with a furry friend at home knows the pain of not being able to be with them throughout the day, let alone when they are stuck late at work or on the road. Over the past few years Petcube has made strides in how we can interact with our pets while away that all started with the self-titled Petcube that allows you to watch and control a laser pointer from a smartphone or tablet.

Last year Petcube relaunched their flagship product on Kickstarter, now dubbing it Petcube Play, and alongside it announced a new device, Petcube Bites, that would allow you to toss out treats to your dogs and cats while keeping an eye on them. More than 2000 backers later and both devices were successfully funded, and in the past few months Bites has begun shipping out to backers.

Over the past two weeks my resident test dogs, Gizmo and Loopy, gave Petcube bites a whirl. While Loopy has since become an expert on the original Petcube, I knew this one would be a bit more interesting because she is less food driven and not a fan of any odd noises. Gizmo on the other hand loves anything and everything, especially if food is involved. So how did the two fare with Bites? Let’s dig into what this thing does first, and their reaction should stand for itself.

Petcube Bites in Action

It’s a security camera, no wait a treat thrower, maybe a pet powered social network? How about all three! Petcube is back, and this time it’s sporting a treat launcher with sights on your favorite dog or cat (or possibly other treat motivated free roaming pet). Petcube Bites uses the power of treats to draw in the attention of your furry friends so that you can better keep an eye on them. Unlike traditional WiFi connected cameras that simply allow you to monitor your home, Bites gamifies the process by bribing them with food. And by gamified we mean it shoots out treats up to six feet away from the device itself, which is pretty entertaining to watch. You can even schedule the device to toss out treats at a specific time, that way it shakes up your pet’s routines.

Gamified Security Camera

Much like the original Petcube, Bites really doubles as an in-home security camera. However, now they’ve truly put in features that make it competitive with the likes of Nest and Canary, and it absolutely beats the Argus outside of it not being made for the outdoors. Bites features 1080p resolution, 3 x digital pinch and zoom, a 138 degree wide angle lens, 2-way audio, night vision using infrared, motion sense and audio triggered recording, and cloud storage for the recordings.

Based on these specs alone, Petcube Bites is a legit security monitor, and it works just as well as it sounds. The sensitivity is a bit touchy (shifts in light will set it off), but besides it works great. Whenever an audio or motion trigger goes off you’ll get a push notification, it then captures whatever is occurring until the trigger has ended, and you get up to a full day of cloud storage and easy exporting included for free. If you want to expand on the cloud recording subscription, you can get a 10 day history for $10 a month or 30 day history for $30 a month. Bites also features 128-bit encryption, making it even more challenging for anyone to try cracking the device and pulling the ole creepy baby monitor hack on you.

For a device catered towards pet owners, the Petcube Bites device also works really well as a security monitor. Granted if the power or internet goes down you’re out of luck and there is no local video storage, but besides that it’s highly appealing just for these sets of features. Like quite a few other wifi connected monitors, this too requires you to use their app. It would be wonderful if there were a way to watch it through just a web platform, especially when traveling. Obviously it also shoots out treats too, so if your dog is food driven, you’ll be able to get their attention so you can see how they are doing, too.

Social Network and Crowd Controlled Treat Giving

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the original Petcube was it’s social network. While it may not have millions of active users, it let’s you take a look at some wonderful places. There are numerous rescues and shelters that have Petcubes in them so you can watch and interact with the adoptable pets, which in itself is why it’s worth downloading the app even if you don’t have a device.

While testing out Bites during the first day I made the device fully public, just to see what would happen. At first I had a couple of people toss some treats to the dogs, but shortly into it someone got a bit treat happy and basically unloaded the full two pound treat hopper. At that point I switched the controls back over to just me and a few select friends, so that way people I know can toss them treats while I’m at work. Not only does Petcube have their own social network, the camera also integrates with Facebook Live. While I personally wouldn’t see a lot of use for this, the various cat cafes that are popping up could easily use this to their advantage. The audio is also a bit rough since the mic picks up the grinding sound of the hopper in motion, which in turn will make everyone watching go deaf. You can see my first test run here, which includes a lot of pug butt and shooting treats at them, just be warned on the audio.

Overall Petcube Bites is far more than just a treat giving device with a camera thrown in, it’s truly a unique gadget. The only downsides besides some of the previously mentioned one is that the amount of treats that get launched are sort of random, so if you don’t want to over do it with your dogs, there is no option to adjust this. As a security device it works really well, and as a way to interact with your pets when you’re not home, it works wonderfully as long as they are a bit food driven and not afraid of odd sounds.

Design

Petcube Bites may not fit in with the trendiest or most modern living spaces; however, it has a sleek design and can easily be mounted on a wall or sat on top of a flat surface. It also features a single power cable, which should be long enough to reach outlets while not appearing too cluttered along the way. As far as specs go, the Petcube Bites is surprisingly tall, coming in at 7 x 3 x 12 inches. As for weight, since it will either be mounted or on something, the 3.5 pounds of it (without treats) won’t be much of an issue.

It also comes in three different colors – silver, rose gold, and black – allowing it to fit in with plenty of space in your home. For cleanability, the treat hopper is dishwasher or hand wash safe, but the lower compartment where the treats launch need to be done manually. After about 10 times there was a noticeable build up of crumbs, so that will need to be cleaned regularly as to not attract anything other than your pets. And if your pets are like my pug, expect them to be all up in it.

Overall the design looks like most modern tech devices, but if you have a nicer furniture set it probably won’t fit in well. It being dishwasher safe for the most part is great, but expect to do some regular cleaning of the area where treats shoot out.

Pros and Cons

Highs
  • Doubles as security camera
  • Treats bring all the dogs to the yard (view of camera)
Neutral
  • No web player
Lows
  • Can’t control amount of treats being launched
  • May not be a good mix with skittish dogs

Overall Thoughts

Should you buy Petcube Bites? If you’re just looking to keep an eye on your pets, this may be a little bit pricey; however, because this also doubles as a security device including motion/audio triggers, it’s easily worth the the buy. It would be difficult to really compare this to automatic feeders, since this is more of a reward mechanism, so the best way to look at this is dual action security system. Combine this with their cloud based video capture and it actually one ups a few of the more recent monitoring devices we’ve covered in the past months.

If you’re going to choose between Bites and Play, it all comes down to your dog. My incredibly food driven pug absolutely loves Petcube Bites. As soon as Gizmo figured out it throws out treats he began patiently (and not patiently) waiting near it. Loopy, the slightly crazy chiweenie on the other hand is not a big fan of the sound it makes, so she is still hesitant to take treats it throws out. However, she loves playing with Petcube Play’s laser pointer. So if you don’t have a security monitor in your home, and have either cats or dogs, Petcube has a solution for either critter and personality type they may have. If you already have a Nest cam, Canary, or something similar, this may be less ideal unless you need another part of the home monitored. For these reasons we give Petcube Bites a 4 out of 5, and Gizmo gives it two paws up.

Price: $250

Where to buy: Petcube, Amazon

Read more reviews on pet gear and gadgets at TechCo

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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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