About this project
Archeologists suggest that cats were first domesticated by farmers to hunt the little critters that ruined their crops. Keeping cats as pets indoors is only a recent trend. As such, domestic cats have maintained their natural hunting instincts but lack a proper outlet to express them. In the wild, cats hunt up to 20 times a day. While being kept indoors is very beneficial to cat health and safety in a number of ways, not being able to express their natural hunting instincts has been shown to contribute to a number of negative behavioral habits.
With his ability to sense and react to your cat, Mousr is the only toy capable of truly reproducing the hunting experience for indoor cats.
Without a doubt, Mousr is the most technologically advanced cat toy ever to exist. We’ve been called crazy, and maybe we are, but personally we think cats are worth it. After all, cats are people, too.
We really wanted Mousr to be as small and fast as possible, but we also wanted him to have personality. We have been working with several designers and engineers with a lot of experience in order to ensure Mousr’s industrial design will be able to handle all our physical and technological requirements while remaining sleek and cute.
Over the last 4 months we have been rapidly iterating on the hardware design in Shenzhen, China. Being in China allowed us to evaluate a dozen different possible solutions faster than we could have anywhere else. We also worked with many talented people to help us push Mousr's technology to its limits. We believe we have the best possible platform that will enable Mousr to do all the cool things we envision for him. Now we have to finalize the hardware design and source the exact components that will be used in the final production version. You know, stuff like “should we use this LED or this LED?”
The look and feel of Mousr is nearly complete. Issues such as how to attach the tail and where to mount the sensors have been worked out. As Mousr's hardware design iterates into its final form, we will continue to tweak his appearance until it's just right.
The tail accesories are a work in progress (you can help - see the rewards!). Our goal thus far was to build custom tails that our cats love to chase. We would love to hear your input on what materials your cat loves best and how they can be incorporated into Mousr's tail.
We’ve spent the majority of our time in China learning about the stuff we didn’t know (i.e. rapid prototyping and design). Now we’re ready to move on to the stuff we know best - algorithm development. So far we’ve worked with sensor data to ensure we can detect things like nearby motion or external forces on Mousr (e.g. a cat’s paw). On an early prototype with commercial IR sensors, we were able to successfully get Mousr to react to, dodge, and entice our cats to play. With the addition of our 360 degree vision system, we opened the door to making Mousr a full-on artificially intelligent mouse.
To give Mousr the kind of intelligence he needs to be able to outsmart a cat requires in-depth knowledge of signal processing and artificial intelligence. The nuances of his intelligence using his unique vision system haven't been implemented yet, but our team’s 14 years of combined graduate level experience in digital signal processing, non-stationary signal analysis, adaptive filters, biologically inspired signal processing, low-power systems, and 3D audio localization make us the best team for giving Mousr the intelligence he needs to truly challenge your cat.
We have a version of the app that is able to remote control Mousr, and we have discovered some interesting control methods that work well to engage cats. We will continue to discover what kinds of movements work effectively with cats in order to improve the app's functionality. The app's graphical design hasn't been developed yet.
Mousr is being developed by a Ph.D. and two Ph.D. candidates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Electrical Engineering who all own cats. We've been building cat toys and cat furniture for years in an effort to understand our furry friends better.
In particular, we became obsessed over figuring out what games and toys cats loved to play with. After observing how excited cats would get playing with us, and how bored they were with their automatic toys, we decided to build a better solution. As engineers, the solution was clear - robots.
Find Noel's other great design work at http://designhub.ie
Duncan is the new managing director at HAXLR8R, and he is amazing
Contact Rong for your design needs at rou819 [at] hotmail [dot] com
Go watch Steve's other videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/supersteeb1
Check out Amanda's awesome lamp, Clyde, at www.fabule.com
Don’t assume any meaning to the order here. It’s impossible to quantify or rank the kind of help we’ve received from each of these people (and many more, surely!).
Doug Jones and the Bones Jones lab
The entire HAXLR8R family and all the companies here in class 5 that helped us pull through: Clarity, Form, KATIA, Keyi, Linkitz, Opentrons, Prynt, Robo, Voltera.
(1) O'Connor, T. P. “Wild or domestic? Biometric variation in the cat Felis silvestris Schreber.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 17.6 (2007): 581-595.
(2) R.A. Mugford, C.J. Thorne Comparative studies of meal patterns in pet and laboratory housed dogs and cats R.S. Anderson (Ed.), Nutrition of the Dog and Cat, Pergamon Press, Oxford (1980), pp. 3–14
(3) Rochlitz, Irene, ed. The welfare of cats. Vol. 3. Cambridge,, UK: Springer, 2005. pp. 187, 196.
(4) Ellis, Sarah LH, et al. "AAFP and ISFM feline environmental needs guidelines."Journal of feline medicine and surgery 15.3 (2013): 219-230.
(5) The artists that created the music we used in our video:
(6) Cat video 1
(7) Cat video 2
(8) Cat video 3
Risks and challenges
The primary challenge we face is writing the artificial intelligence algorithms. Creating robotics algorithms that work well in the real world is difficult because of complex and changing environments. Developing algorithms on a memory and speed limited microcontroller is even harder. The project has the risk of not achieving the dynamic intelligence we believe we can program into Mousr, resulting in slower reaction times or poor sensitivity at far distances. However, these are the kinds of challenges the team has studied and overcome in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as overviewed earlier. Additionally, we plan to make the firmware updatable through Bluetooth, allowing us to fix bugs and update algorithms even after shipment of the final hardware.
There are several risks associated with manufacturing hardware that could delay the project. Some of the tasks we have to complete include creating tooling, making a test jig to ensure every Mousr off the line meets specifications, interfacing with foreign factories, handling the logistics of international shipping, and ensuring Mousr has all the proper certifications. We are going to run into challenges and setbacks throughout the process, but we're committed to ensuring an on time delivery, remaining transparent, and keeping everyone up to date with what's going on. Additionally, our large network of friends and mentors with decades of experience in manufacturing substantially reduces the manufacturing risks. Our primary mentors, the HAXLR8R team, have helped over 50 companies successfully manufacture hardware products.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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