One start-up has designed a device that lets pets and their owners play together, even when they're apart.
Petcube co-founder Yaroslav Azhnyuk says, "We're on a mission to improve pet owners' lives with technology."
Azhnyuk along with Alex Neskin and Andrey Klen co-founded Petcube in 2013. The inspiration came from Neskin's pet Chihuaha, who would bark incessantly when he was left home alone. In an effort to create a distraction for his dog, Neskin created the Petcube Camera, an aluminum cube-shaped apparatus that sits on a flat surface and allows pet owners to watch, talk and play with their pets from their smartphone.
The device features a wide-angle camera, a microphone, a speaker and a built-in laser pointer. It plugs into the wall and can connect to a home Wi-Fi network. Users are then able to interact with their pets through the free Petcube app, which is available on iOS and Android platforms. The app allows owners to activate a laser beam within camera range to engage their furry friend.
Petcube owners also have the option to share access to their camera with friends, family or anyone registered within the Petcube network.
The device retails for $199 on the company's website and is also available through Amazon.com, Best Buy and Brookstone.
Veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson, who hosts "The Pet Show With Dr. Katy," wondered how Petcube justifies its $199 price tag, noting that other pet products on the market offer similar capabilities for less. These products include the PetPace Collar, which monitors a pet's vitals and the DogTelligent Connected Collar which tracks a dog's location and includes built-in speakers.
But Azhnyuk insists the Petcube is not expensive. "This is a pretty average price point for a home surveillance camera at this point. And this actually saves you a lot of energy and a lot of nerves, so I think it's totally doable," said Azhnyuk.
Alicia Syrett, a board member of the New York Angels, said she's concerned about how the company would be able to combat negative product reviews about the unit's poor connectivity and low picture quality.
Azhnyuk said because the company was eager to deliver the product to backers during its Kickstarter campaign, it sent devices out prematurely, while they still had kinks. He told CNBC that most of those issues have been fixed, adding that, "We just had our Vine/Amazon review program and we had great reviews from Amazon-certified Vine reviewers. So I'm pretty sure that if you buy Petcube now, your experience will be mostly flawless."
Since its launch in July 2013, the start-up has raised $1.17 million in funding from SOS Ventures, Almaz Capital, and AVentures Capital as well as crowdfunding via Kickstarter. The company would not disclose its profitability, but did tell CNBC that it had hit $1 million in online sales.
San Francisco-based Petcube has 30 full-time employees.