If your dog could text you, what would they say?
This week coinciding with CES, FluentPet, the maker of those viral talking buttons all over TikTok, launched FluentPet Connect, a new version of its button system, now equipped with WiFi and data capturing. The FluentPet Connect app automatically captures when a dog presses a button allowing owners to track their progress and get messages in real time.
Teaching your dog to use the FluentPet system — hexagonal tiles or "HexTiles" with buttons that are customized to say different words like "outside" or "play" when pressed — is all about patience, repetition, and close observation, according to the experiences of many in the community forum started by FluentPet. Now users don't have to worry about missing a hard-earned milestone when they're out.
"When people are in another room, they can get a text message from their dog [saying], 'I really need to go outside right now' you probably want to come get me," said Leo Trottier, CEO of FluentPet.
The new version was influenced by a motivation to capture what some claim are remarkable discoveries happening as dogs learn to communicate verbally with their humans. An example of these animals using sound buttons to communicate with their humans was told to Trottier by Alexis Devine, who has 7.2 million followers on TikTok for her videos of Bunny, the famous talking dog. "Alexis was totally perplexed because Bunny was saying 'sound walk' or 'sound tug.'" But Bunny didn’t seem interested in playing tug o’ war or going for a walk, but kept insistently pressing the buttons for "sound" and "walk" and "sound" and "tug."
"It occurred to us, well maybe 'sound walk' is Bunny pressing buttons and 'sound tug' is kind of like a conversation between Alexis and Bunny."
Alexis Devine and Bunny are part of a 5,000-person study that gathers and reports data to FluentPet on a biweekly basis. But now, if users of the new version choose to opt in, their data can be automatically gathered and reported. Inspired by Christina Hunger’s work, the goal of the study is to research how dogs (and cats) can learn to express themselves using such devices.
Does this mean humans finally discovered a way to talk to animals? "I mean, people should be skeptical. Alexis [Devine] is skeptical. I'm skeptical. There are lots of times when Bunny does things that don't make any sense at all," said Trottier.
With any experiment, however, that’s to be expected, says Trottier. Just watching one of Bunny’s videos shows the deliberate intent behind each communication. He’s not just pushing buttons at random.
But not everyone is convinced. "You stand a much better chance of teaching people to speak dog than you do to teach dogs to speak human," Dr. Clive Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University Wynne told Mashable in November.
In addition to WiFi connectivity, the new FluentPet Connect tiles also have improved sound quality, are more durable, and are more customizable for fitting the individual needs of each dog.
The FluentPet Connect Base HexTile ($69.95) and Expansion HexTiles ($49.95) can be reserved here and will begin shipping Spring 2022.
This post was originally published in January 2022.
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