Our story started years ago, when I was still working at AT&T Labs. I was talking to a buddy of mine about how I’d never had a dog but had always wanted one. He said “It’s a lot of work. You might try fostering one to see if you’re up for it.” Naïve to the pitfalls of fostering (most people end up adopting the dogs they foster), I ended up going to a local no-kill shelter, where I met Hulk for the first time.
As you may have guessed, I ended up keeping the little guy.
I wanted to make sure Hulk was getting plenty of exercise, smelling new and interesting things around the city, and getting socialized with a variety of other dogs. There weren’t any activity trackers on the market back then, so I built one using the latest activity recognition and localization techniques used in research and slapped it on Hulk to start tracking him as he walked around the city.
As more activity trackers for dogs came on the market, we noticed none of them did the kinds of activity recognition or localization that ours did. Sensing an opportunity, we started talking to dog owners about their trackers.
The more dog owners we talked to, the more we heard people saying, “I don’t really have any pain points. I just feel guilty leaving my dog home alone all day when I’m at work.” After hearing it for the 20th time, we realized that was the pain point. Dogs didn't need more tracking; they needed more fun time with their owners.
As we thought more about it, we realized there are no good ways for pet owners to interact with their pets remotely. Technological advances seem to have somehow skipped over our four-legged companions. We can get almost anything delivered to our door in less than an hour, FaceTime with relatives halfway across the world or book a driver in 2 minutes. But when it comes to interacting with man’s best friend, it’s through a nylon leash and a tennis ball.
That’s what’s missing in the pet world today. We set out to solve that problem. And that’s why today, PlayDate isn’t just another dog toy: It’s a great new way for pet owners to communicate with their furry friends.