There’s a tale behind every wagging tail, or so believe the founders of New York tech company DogStar Life. They’ve created a wearable device called TailTalk that accurately translates dogs’ emotions by analyzing their ‘tail language’.
The company is currently trying to raise $100,000 through Indiegogo, in order to develop the technology further and also prepare for mass production. “The tail is the dog’s social interface, like a smile for humans,” the campaign page reads. “Understanding the tail means understanding the dog.”
The device is a lightweight sensor that is placed on a dog’s tail to capture movement patterns all day long. “It basically combines an accelerometer and a gyroscope much like the Fitbit, but it’s picking up on the way the tail is moving,” co-founder Mark Karp told Yahoo News. “The idea is to capitalize on all the research that’s been done in the last two to three years on what tail movement means, and translating that into emotion.”
The makers claim that TailTalk is most useful for owners to understand what happens to their pets when they’re not together; like when dogs are alone at home, with dog walkers, or at the dog daycare. The device connects to a smartphone app that provides real time information on how the pet is doing.
“TailTalk has a 3-axis accelerometer and a gyroscope, capturing the tail movement as it happens,” the company claims. “Our proprietary algorithm translates tail wagging into emotions the dog is expressing, where pet parents can see their dog’s emotional diary throughout the day.” Pets are assigned a happiness score, and an emotional graph helps interpret their mood swings.
The makers apparently consulted professors at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the early stages of product design. They learned that tail wagging could reveal a lot about what dogs were feeling. For instance, left wagging indicates negative feelings like fear, aggression, or anxiety, and right wagging could mean positive feelings of happiness, excitement, or satisfaction. They also spent a lot of time talking to pet owners, and most of them seemed concerned about the health and happiness of their dogs.
According to co-founder Yannis Tsampalis, TailTalk is meant to empower pet parents, not make them feel guilty. “If you know that your dog is really unhappy during the day, it’s probably in the best interest of both of you to have a dog walker or dog sitter come over,” he explained. “We feel that pet parents are wonderful, but if they had more data, they can probably make better decisions and create a stronger bond between them and their dog.”
The product is a result of Tsampalis’s passion for wearable technology and Karp’s love of dogs. “It was extremely exciting for both of us,” Tsampalis said. “Mike had grown up with dogs in his life. I consider wearables to be the new wave of computing – there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity and a lot of untapped territory.” They’ve managed to raise over $40,000 in seven days, and, if successfully funded, the product will ship to backers by May next year. Retail sales will begin next October.