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UCSD Students Design ‘Game Console For Dogs’

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser's dog Kima looks skeptically at the CleverPet H...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: KPBS reporter Claire Trageser's dog Kima looks skeptically at the CleverPet Hub game console, January 24, 2018.

Pretend for the moment, you're a dog. You have nothing to do all day but eat, sleep and wait for your human to return home.

Two students from UC San Diego have started a company called CleverPet that makes waiting a little less boring. It sells CleverPet Hub, a game console that dogs have to play to get their food.

Leo Trottier, one of the co-founders, started CleverPet as a PhD candidate in cognitive science. His partner Dan Knudsen, has a doctorate in neuroscience.

The Hub is a sleek plastic dome that slides open to reveal a little bowl with food. It has lit-up buttons in the front, and dogs learn to push the buttons to get food.

Once a dog has mastered the basics, the Hub challenges him with harder and harder puzzles, all the way until dogs are touching the buttons to make their colors match up. CleverPet uses yellow and blue, colors dogs can actually see.

The Hub costs $299 and started shipping in 2016 after CleverPet raised money through the website Kickstarter. They say they've shipped to more than 1,000 people originally and are now taking new orders.

The point is to give dogs tasks to stimulate their minds while they are home alone during the day, he said.

Nicholas Mcvicker,

"Dogs spend thousands of hours a year not having anything to do, feeling unhappy about it," he said. "And their owners are feeling guilty at the same time."

Owners can use an app to monitor their dogs' progress. CleverPet also uses data from each Hub it has sold to improve the product.

I decided to try it out on my dog, Kima, who is very smart. (All dog owners say this, but I promise it is actually true. Kima earned her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certificate and knows lots of tricks).

But when she met the CleverPet Hub, she was too skittish of its sudden movements and loud noises so she would not take the food from its bowl.

Trottier said dogs usually need a little time to get comfortable with the toy before they start pressing its buttons. So while Kima did not figure it out right away, I can go on thinking she is very smart.

Photo caption: CleverPet's office dog Epi plays the color match game on the CleverPet Hub in...

Photo credit: CleverPet

CleverPet's office dog Epi plays the color match game on the CleverPet Hub in this undated photo.

Two students from UC San Diego have started a company called CleverPet that makes waiting a little less boring. It sells CleverPet Hub, a game console that dogs have to play to get their food.

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