Backed to Business: Watching birds and tracking the rat race

As humans begin returning to offices, a pair of pet tech products let you keep tabs on animals beyond cats and dogs.

As vaccinations roll out beyond the most vulnerable in the coming months, the en masse return to offices will affect the other species that many consider part of their families. Crowdfunding networks have had their share of remote cameras, feeders, and toys for dogs and cats. But what about other animals for which folks care? New projects aim to keep those with an interest in smaller animals up to date with the latest on their activity. As always, remember that crowdfunding campaigns entail the risk that the creators may not be able to fulfill deliverables. Pledge only what you can afford to lose.

Bird Buddy

One of the biggest success stories ever in crowdfunding started life as Doorbot, a pioneering Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell. After a Shark Tank rejection and a name change to Ring, the company was scooped up by Amazon and has become the basis for a family of home security products that is expanding to cars and drones. If cameras are a good match for people's houses, though, why not extend them to birdhouses? That's the idea behind Bird Buddy, a smart bird feeder with an integrated camera designed to capture videos and photos of fleeing avians. While its utility can't compare to that of a doorbell camera like Ring, a package delivery carrier showing up on your doorbell's app has far less appealing plumage.

In addition to notifying you of feathered feeders and capturing their pictures, the Bird Buddy uses AI to identify 1,000 species of birds within the app for the armchair birder. According to the team, it need not even capture a photo to do this as it can identify the type of bird approaching by its song. But the marketing smarts of the product team is up to the bird smarts of its creation. The campaign offers a host of accessories, including a wall and fence mount, a Suet ball holder, and even a solar roof to power its camera that adds $60 to its early bird price of $199. The Indiegogo project has raised over $5.5 million and is expected to ship in October.

Marathon Pets Smart Wheel

Invoking classic entrepreneurial spirit, the makers of the Marathon Pets Smart Wheel note that they set out trying to change the world. However, the team notes that it had good reason to buck the conventional advice to avoid reinventing the wheel. As their owners hop back into being evaluated for their performance in a metaphorical hamster wheel, their actual hamsters can have their activity in an actual hamster wheel tracked. The Smart Wheel can send a host of measures to its companion app. These include the rodent's current and maximum speed, its number of running sessions, and total distance traveled (or, rather, its equivalent since it's actually, of course, always zero). These are further rolled up into lifetime totals and averages where applicable.

What is the purpose of this digital window into rodent routines? The campaign notes you can "celebrate their accomplishments" and make adjustments to promote their best quality of life. Indeed, those spending up to $85 for the 12-inch model probably have the means to keep their little wheel warriors in the best of hamster health. All pricing tiers include access to a Smart Wheel stats dashboard for a lifetime (ideally yours and not the hamster's). The Kickstarter project was due to ship in September but is far below its fundraising target.

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