Teen invents gadget for dogs suffering from separation anxiety

Have you ever found yourself off at work or on vacation just wishing you could Skype your dog back home to see how she’s doing without you? Or do you find yourself nervously wondering how your separation anxiety-suffering pooch is coping at home alone while you’re running errands?

An iCPooch prototype, Kayla, and inventor Brooke Martin. (Photo credit: Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Well thanks to a new gadget called the iCPooch, the day you can video chat with Fido on your lunch break is rapidly approaching.

The patent-pending iCPooch is an internet-enabled device with a computer-like motherboard and Wi-Fi module that connects to a standard home wireless Internet router. The dog owner can then mount a separately-purchased smartphone or tablet with a camera to the iCPooch, install a Skype video chat software app, and video chat with Fido at his eye level, allowing pooch and pooch-parent to see and speak to one another from afar.

But that’s not all — the iCPooch makes giving a treat to your dog from miles away literally as simple as pressing a button. Described as one part mini vending machine and one part computer, dog owners can dispense iCPooch brand cookie treats to their dogs remotely by initiating a “drop treat” command from their computer, smartphone, or tablet. The iCPooch device, loaded with a sleeve of round dog cookies, will then drop a tasty biscuit for Fido to munch on in your absence.

The gadget’s inventor is Brooke Martin, a 13-year-old North Central High School student in Spokane, Washington and an aspiring scientist. The 9th grader submitted her iCPooch design to the 3M Young Scientist Challenge and is one of the 10 finalists in the running for the first place prize, which includes $25,000 and the title “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

Martin was developing iCPooch for some time before hearing about the 3M contest, by building prototypes of the device at home in her family’s garage.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” Martin tells LiveScience.com.

It turns out one very special Golden Retriever is the inspiration behind the iCPooch.

“My dog Kayla suffered from separation anxiety, so I thought it would be really cool to be able to video chat with her while I was away from home to make sure she was OK,” Martin explains in an email to GeekWire. “The idea of delivering her a treat seemed like it would really make her happy if I could figure out how to do it.”

To get the iCPooch ready for consumers, Martin has partnered with Delony Langer-Anderson, a product development scientist from 3M’s consumer health care division. Martin has consulted with Langer-Anderson about how to conduct product tests and troubleshoot early to avoid potential problems.

“One thing I have thought about a lot is, what happens if while the device is on the floor, what if your dog knocks it over, or scratches the screen?” Martin explains, describing an issue she’s discussed with Langer-Anderson. Together they are testing different sturdy materials and scratch-resistant solutions at a local animal shelter.

Do you think iCPooch is a novel idea? Would you like to try at home with your own dog? You’d better act fast — Brooke Martin and is hoping a bit of crowd-source funding will turn the iCPooch prototype into reality, and there’s a limited time to donate to the cause. If — and only if — a $70,000 minimum can be raised as part of a Kickstarter campaign launched last month, then the iCPooch device could be available on store shelves soon. But with 20 days to go and roughly $19,000 accumulated so far, fundraising for the next great doggy gadget has a long way to go.

To check out photos of the iCPooch prototype, to learn more about its features, or to be a part of funding this super cool device, check out the iCPooch Kickstarter campaign. The project will be open for crowd-source funding until October 1.

Sources: iCPooch Kickstarter campaign, GeekWire, LiveScience.com, The Spokesman-Review