I use a Nest Cam to keep an eye on my 9-month-old Miniature Goldendoodle, and for the most part it has served me well. There's a two-way microphone and speaker, movement alerts for when he is up to no good and night vision, but one thing has always been missing. There is no way for me to reward my dog or let him know that I am thinking about him.
That's where the Furbo comes in. It's an Internet-connected video camera that can remotely dispense treats at the tap of a button. I got a sneak peek at the Furbo at an event in New York City a few days before it launched on Indiegogo.
This isn't the first camera to offer this feature, but I really like the way it's implemented. The Furbo can hold dozens of small treats. These are stored in an airtight compartment at the top of the device, which keeps them fresh. Tapping a button on the app will launch the treat on an angle a couple of feet across the room. By contrast, the Petzi camera, a similar product that was successfully crowdfunded last year, simply drops a couple of treats at the base of the camera.
In addition to incorporating the Nest Cam's basic feature set -- two-way communication with microphone and speaker and night-vision mode for seeing in the dark -- the Furbo can also alert you if your dog starts to bark.
Videos can only be viewed through the Android or iOS app. There's no Web interface like you have with the Nest. I would rate image quality as "good enough," but the Nest Cam is definitely better. That's because the camera on the Furbo is a slightly lower-resolution than the Nest (720p compared to 1080p Full HD). The field of vision also isn't as wide and you can't zoom in as much. The Furbo has a 120-degree wide-angle lens and 4x digital zoom, compared to a 130-degree lens and 8x digital zoom on the Nest Cam.
I liked that the Furbo had Bluetooth and can be set up to automatically turn off when you walk in the door. That's something I wish Nest would do. At this time, there's no way to go back and see a historical record of your videos (the company is toying with the idea of a subscription cloud service similar to Nest in the future), but you can record videos up to a minute in length from the app. These videos are saved on your phone and can be shared with others through text, email and social media.
All I could think about was how much my dog Theo would enjoy this. I was sold -- at least until I heard the price. The Furbo is available now through an Indiegogo campaign. For the first week, the Furbo will be offered for the tempting price of $99. But that price will increase to $239 soon after. The camera is expected to begin shipping to backers in July.
As always, contributing to a crowdfunded project comes with risk. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site's policies, such as those for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.