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Play with your pet. Anytime. Anywhere.
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Press Release (72 words)

PlayDate launches first-ever smart ball that allows pet owners to play with their pets remotely

PlayDate opened pre-order sales for its smart ball today. PlayDate lets dog and cat owners play with their pets from anywhere. Owners can control the ball from their iOS or Android devices using PlayDate's free app. Or they can login through the PlayDate website and play from their mac or pc. A camera mounted inside the ball shows the pet as well as the environment around them.

Visit www.startplaydate.com to pledge your support.

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Press Release (173 words)

PlayDate launches first-ever smart ball that allows pet owners to play with their pets remotely

PlayDate opened pre-order sales for its smart ball today. PlayDate lets dog and cat owners play with their pets from anywhere. Owners can control the ball from their iOS or Android devices using the free PlayDate app from the App Store or Google Play. Or they can login through the PlayDate website and play from their mac or pc. A camera mounted inside the ball shows the pet as well as the environment around them.

The company was founded on the belief that human pet interaction could be improved using technology.

Additional features have been included based on initial product testing. A speaker and microphone inside the ball let owners speak to and hear their pets. A virtual “squeak” can be triggered from a button in the app. Photos and videos can be captured right inside the app.

Durability and safety are top concerns. The outer shell is made out of thick, shatterproof polycarbonate. And over time the outer shell can be replaced, extending the lifespan of the smart ball.

Visit www.startplaydate.com to pledge your support.

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Main Points
  • PlayDate's smart ball is the only remote pet camera available with two-way interaction. There's something incredibly gratifying about remotely controlling a physical object from your phone, and on top of that, having your pet be able to interact back. It's the closest thing to being able to physically play with your dog without being there.
  • Unlike the other camera-enabled devices out there, this is the only one that lets you move around to follow your pet.
  • We believe that technology has skipped over our furry friends. Our goal is to bring the latest technology to market to improve the lives of pets and their owners.
  • Control the ball from an iOS or Android device. Or if your phone isn’t handy, login through our web portal and control the ball through a browser.
  • Our proprietary technology keeps the camera stable and the video feed smooth (2 patents).
  • Durable polycarbonate outer shell protects the electronics inside and keeps your pet safe. Over time, replace only the shell to prolong the life of the smart ball.
  • A speaker and microphone inside the ball let owners speak to and hear their pets.
  • Snap photos and record videos right in the app so you never miss a cute moment.
  • Our co-founders include a PhD with 36 patents and an MBA.
Overview

Pet owners can control PlayDate's smart ball remotely from their iOS or Android device after downloading our free app from the App Store or Google Play.

Pet owners can control their PlayDate smart ball in the same way you might control a character in a smartphone game. There is a navigation controller on the left. On the right, there are buttons that trigger actions like playing a “squeak” or taking a picture/recording video. Similar to a hamster ball, the PlayDate smart ball rolls around wherever the pet owner directs it. A stabilized camera inside lets the owner see all the action in smooth, real-time HD. And, a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings but allows the camera to see out clearly.

As we went through design iterations, we added additional features based on user feedback:

Replaceable outer shell - durability and safety are super important for us. That's why we've made the outer shell out of thick, shatterproof polycarbonate. And over time folks can replace just the outer shell, extending the lifespan of the device, which is unheard of when it comes to pet toys.

Virtual squeaker - plays a squeak sound when the "squeak" button is pressed

Microphone - Pet owners can hear their pets through a microphone in the ball

Speaker - Pet owners can talk to their pets through a speaker in the ball

Save Photos - A button allows pet owners to snap photos while playing with their pet

Record Video - Pet owners can record video of their pet playing with the PlayDate smart ball

If an owner's phone isn't handy, or they're just looking for a quick break from work, we also have a website where they can login and control their PlayDate smart ball from anywhere using their wifi network.

How we started:

We started thinking about PlayDate about two years ago. I had just adopted Hulk, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, from a no-kill shelter and became obsessed with training him. I wanted to make sure he was smelling a variety of things and tried to make sure that I took him to different parts of the city on our walks.

This was back in 2013 and there weren't any activity trackers for dogs on the market. At the time I was a researcher at AT&T Labs working on new ways of interacting with technology including wearable devices and activity tracking. So, I applied the latest research results from activity recognition, built a dog tracking collar and strapped it onto Hulk for our walks around the city.

That worked pretty well and late last year we thought about trying to commercialize it. But as I talked to more and more dog owners, I realized what they were clamoring for wasn't another way to track the activity for their dogs. Instead, the feedback kept coming back that they felt guilty leaving their dogs home alone all day. That's when I realized the bigger problem that needed solving was dog owners needed a better way to interact with their pets remotely.

As we started building out prototypes and showing them to our friends, we learned that cat owners love the idea too. But cat owners have slightly different needs so we've been modifying the design of the cat version for their needs (e.g. ribbon holder on the outer shell).

Founder Bios:

Kevin Li (CEO)

Kevin received his BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to get his PhD in Computer Engineering from the University of California, San Diego. Kevin spent five years at AT&T labs as a top researcher in mobile interfaces. He has accumulated 15 papers and 36 patents and is an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Engadget, Gizmodo, ABC News and more.

Anthony Chien (CTO)

Anthony holds an MBA from NYU Stern. He also has a degree in Cognitive Science: Computational Modeling from the University of California, Berkeley, where he and Kevin were roommates. Anthony has worked and consulted extensively in business development and strategy.

Hulk (Chief Product Officer)

Hulk was picked up off the mean streets of Tennessee. Things were looking grim for him until he got picked up by Social Tees, a no-kill shelter, and brought to New York City. Kevin started fostering him at the tender age of 11 weeks and they’ve been inseparable ever since.

Quotes:

“PlayDate isn’t just another dog toy. It’s a great new way for pet owners to communicate with their furry friends.” - Kevin Li, co-founder and CEO

“It’s shocking how 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.” - Kevin Li, co-founder and CEO

Contact info for interviews:

For our full image kit, click here to download.

Interviews available on request. Please contact hello@startplaydate.com with requests and questions.

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