Friday, January 30, 2009

Lost Dogs 2.0

This morning my wife woke me up in a frantic state. She had just been out walking our puppy when he broke away from her and ran into a busy street. He had been trying to greet another dog, and then managed to run into King St. Fortunately, no cars hit Captain and she was able to get him back quickly. The other dog somehow also broke loose during the crisis, and ran off into an industrial area. He was found unscathed a few hours later.

The incident got me thinking about how technology can help find lost dogs. A lost dog is usually a very local problem. This is obviously why people tend to post signs around the neighborhood or just spread the word. On the internet people have tried setting up websites, posting on Craigslist, Yelp, or dog focused sites. While using the internet to inform people is one useful strategy, a larger audience is not necessarily more effective if it is not the right audience. A personal website or even a dog website won't be very useful if it doesn't target the two mile radius where the dog was lost.

Even with a fairly targeted internet audience, the message is most useful when it is being read at or near the location and in a timely fashion. This makes mobile the best delivery method. A number of mobile platforms and technologies exist that can be better leveraged to reunite lost dogs and owners. Currently, Twitter is probably one of the most effective and easy to use. Anyone can create a Twitter for lost dogs in their local area. This list can easily be used by any of the Twitter followers. (Check out my San Francisco lost dog twitter "SFLostDog"). However, Twitter's main shortcomings are that it does not inherently know your location, and the feed needs to be established well before the incident.

A number of location based mobile applications are now gaining popularity. These applications could also be leveraged to find a lost dog. Today I sent the lost dog message out on my Loopt iPhone client. The Mix feature on Loopt lets you connect with anyone in your local area. This is targeted at dating, friendship, and networking - but why not lost dogs? Unfortunately, Loopt also has a number of shortcomings; primarily, the iPhone's inability to run applications in the background, the size of the user base, and the number of people with a compatible mobile phone. These same problems would also be true for any lost dog-specific iPhone application.

On the cutting edge of technology, ad hoc mesh networks provide and interesting potential solution. One of my classmates at the MIT Media Lab was working on a platform for distributing local news events through an ad hoc mesh network. Essentially, the event would be broadcast for x number of hops through the mesh network. For example, I send out the notification and anyone within five hops/connections of me would get the message.

For now it seems like Twitter is the best solution. I'd love to hear of any other potential solutions - until then, please join the SF Lost Dog twitter if you're in San Francisco.

Best Dog Parks

Each year Dog Fancy magazine publishes a list of reader nominated best dog parks. From the user reviews of the parks it seems like the actual judging might be a bit arbitrary. None the less, I've mapped the park locations with short descriptions. Check out the reviews before you drive too far. I came across at least one unhappy owner who didn't think his road trip was justified.

You can find the 2007 and 2008 best dog parks on my Dog Life USA map (below). Use it to find parks in your area as well as add your own favorite parks and dog friendly places. This map is a work in progress so please help me out by correcting any errors or sending me your comments. Also, the preview doesn't display all the locations at once. The best way to find locations is to use the left side scroll to page through all of the listings. The map will then update to the local area.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

$155,000 Doggie Mulligan

Monday night cloned dog Sir Lancelot Encore arrived on an American Airlines flight from Korea. Lancelot is a $155,000 cloning effort of BioArts and Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, a scientist with South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. Serial entrepreneur, Ed Otto, won the cloning in an auction and he couldn't be happier to have a copy of his beloved Lancy.

I'm all for pushing the limits of doggie science but the Boston Herald article kind of makes it sound like whipping up a Korean egg Turducken. I guess that makes Woo-suk an Iron Chef contnender.
To create Lancelot Encore, Woo-suk took an egg from what Hawthorne called "an indigenous Korean dog" resembling a bloodhound, replaced the egg’s innards with the late Lancelot’s DNA, then implanted the egg in a second Korean dog.
Were there any doubt, Nina Otto said, "we could have the puppy’s DNA checked. But I believe in people."

Of course, clones are always evil and inferior to their originals. But you don't have to take my word for it. Check out this blog post on the history of evil clones. Good luck Ed.

Get a Dog Not a Rhino

Here is a great new Pedigree commercial to support adopting dogs. Also, check out their website for three more videos. The rhino and the water buffalo videos are hilarious.

As part of their Superbowl adoption ad campaign, Pedigree is also releasing a barking iPhone application which will be available for download on 1/30.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

San Francisco Dog Life

Check out my San Francisco Dog Life map. I'm currently working on standardizing the icons and updating all the info. Feel free to edit and contribute!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Dog Statistics

This week I've been working on my stealth (that just makes it sound cool) doggie startup. I've been looking for dog statistics for the largest U.S. cities. In the process I ran across a couple of interesting articles. This one from the New York Times points out that, oddly enough, you're more likely to own a Shi Tzu if you live on the Upper East Side and a Chihuahua if you live in Spanish Harlem. Go figure.

If you're a stickler for quality statistics you'll want to note that the data is from 2003 and is limited by the relatively small number of owners who actually register their dogs. The article points out:
The department estimates that there are 530,000 dogs in the city, 80 percent of them without licenses, so the analysis has its limits. (For example, in neighborhoods where owners are diligent about registering their pets, there may seem to be more dogs than in other neighborhoods.) The city, of course, wants all dogs to be law-abiding; a license costs $8.50 per year if a dog is spayed or neutered, and $11.50 if it is not. Applications can be found through or by calling 311.

Imperfect though they may be, the dog statistics do say something about New York. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's commissioner of health, says the patterns suggest a city of neighborhoods. ''I think there are groupings of people who have dogs for different reasons,'' he said. ''Some for companionship, some for safety and security.''

This article from lists some general dog statistics and highlights some cool Boston dog events. Notable stats from the article include:
8,500: Approximate number of licensed dogs in the city of Boston

$120: Weekly doggie day-care rate at Dog Day Afternoons in Boston

$1,425: Basic annual total expenses for a pet dog in the United States, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc.

40 percent: US households with a pet dog

No. 1: Rating of Labrador Retrievers on the Most Popular Breeds in Boston list according to the American Kennel Club

No. 18: Rating of the Boston Terrier on the same list

$260: Price of a Louis Vuitton monogram dog collar

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Virtual Dog Park

Windows Live Messenger and GoPets have launched a virtual dog park for your virtual pet. Now your internet dog can play with other internet dogs without even leaving the house! I especially love the game description from the MSN website:
- Adopt adorable, easy-to-care for pets while chatting with your friends

- Give your pet a unique look, with cool clothing and accessories

- Feed & play with your pet - buy them exotic foods and beautiful places to live

- Let your pet find new friends with similar interests all over the world
Since I can't afford exotic food or beautiful places for my real dog it seems like GoPets is the next best option. Make sure you're using IE when you check out the site or it won't launch correctly, after all it is a Microsoft site.

K9 Bullet-proof Vests

We're all familiar with at least one famous crime fighting dog, Rin Tin Tin, Hong Kong Phooey, McGruff. But did you ever see any of them wearing a bullet-proof vest? It seems that body armor company International Armor has come out with bullet-proof vest for police dogs. After all, these dogs are often the ones intercepting the perpetrator and therefore putting their life a risk.

The vests cost from $600 to $800 each and protect against bullets as well as stabbing weapons. To help defray the costs the Vest a Dog Network was formed. Check out their site or your local chapter's site to find out how to support these crime fighting pooches.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dogs go viral

Surfing around YouTube today I found some great dog videos. Here are a couple as well as a link to my dog YouTube List.

A dog riding a bike is even funnier with Japanese commentary.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A little puppy love

Thought I would contribute with a recent pic of our motivating interest in all this dog stuff... the energetic and incredibly sweet Captain.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dogs on Yelp

I love Yelp. If you're unfamiliar, Yelp is review site, similar to Citysearch, for everything in your city (USA and UK). However, Yelp one-upped Citysearch by creating a true community and thus driving many more reviews, and more interesting reviews. In addition, the site has a great user interface that shows your results on a map and makes it easy to search for nearby places.

Yelp has a vibrant community of dog lovers who write passionate and frequently a bit snarky reviews. So why buy an expensive dog travel book when you can just search Yelp? Below are links to some Yelp doggie lists (including mine) for various cities around the U.S. and the link to search for more.

Captain's List (San Francisco)

Sophie's Favorite Shops (Bay Area)

Whose a good boy!?! (Boston)

Can I bring my dog? (Seattle)

What I do for love... (Chicago)

Search for a Yelp List in your city.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dog House Design

While searching for innovative dog products I came across this post on The Bark showing a pre-fabbed dog house. Usability Engineer, Jason Valaik, has been working on a design since last June. Initially, he has pitched it as a DIY project with an instructional video on his site. However, as he refines the idea he envisions it being a modular design that might be sold at stores like Ikea. I for one would love to see dog houses at Ikea. They already have a variety of products for the design conscious dog and I'm sure they could figure out a way to flat pack these houses.

If you're interested in modern dog houses you can also check out Savannah Cabannah and architectura.

Dog Photography

Here is a great picture from 1915 courtesy of the George Eastman House Collection. You can find some more great classic pics on The Dog Art Today blog. I guess I don't need that fancy new digital SLR to take a great dog pic.

Maker: Unidentified
Title: Man lying on ground with two dogs
Date: ca. 1915
Medium: color plate, screen (Autochrome) process
Dimensions: Image: 9 x 11.6 cm Overall: 10.1 x 12.6 cm

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Than Hot Dogs

Dogs, beer, and baseball. Sweet! Check out this video from The Dog Files, a dog video site.

The POV Shot

Some people out there want to see exactly what their dogs see...don't ask me why. Personally, I'd rather see what they are up to with a normal webcam. However, if you want a point of view shot from your dog, the Pet's Eye View Digital Camera is for you.

You can set it to take a picture every 1, 5, or 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the battery life is only 1-2 hours. Assuming your dog's name isn't Joe Francis the Pet's Eye Camera should provide some good clean fun.

Welcome to Dog 2.0!

Welcome to my new doggie tech site! As you can see the content is a bit slim right now but I've got a great line up of posts in the works including topics like digital medical records, iPhone apps, dog social networks, maps, robot dogs, and more.

Although, while growing up my family had many dogs, I have been lacking my own pup since I went off to college. College life followed by city living was not conducive to dog ownership. In October of 2008, after moving to a pet friendly apartment in San Francisco, my wife and I brought home our Vizsla puppy, Captain. Since then, most of our free time (and cash) has gone into our puppy.

For some time I have been hearing about dog social networks or other doggie internet innovations. However, it wasn't until we brought Captain home that I began to really explore the world of doggie tech. Despite some interesting sites, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Most notably, dog information online is still very fragmented. There are Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, social networks, blogs, etc. However, I still haven't found that perfect doggie search engine, portal, or application.

This blog will chronicle my search for the best dog sites online, doggie applications, and fun dog technology.

Sony Aibo

What better way to kick off Dog 2.0 than with a robot dog post? Now you may be thinking that robot dogs are a bit too dorky even for your techno savvy self. And to that I say you haven't see an Aibo in person. Back when I was at MIT one of my professors brought in his Aibo ERS-7. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical but once that little guy started dancing in front of the class I realized the appeal. Apparently the Abio was a success in Japan where small apartments make it hard for people to have dogs. In fact, Aibo owners have shown quite a passion online, specifically in their Aibo hacking. However, it never managed to have the same success in the U.S. and in 2006 Sony stopped production.

For some more background on the Aibo check out the Harvard Business School Case. If you happen to think that the Aibo is only a toy you should read this medical study where robot dogs were used to reduce loneliness in nursing home patients.

Sony Aibo Video

The Best of the Sony Aibo. This video is a bit long but has some great clips.