In Part 1 of this article, I interviewed Greg Snyder, Tristan Christianson, and Fred Schechter, three engineers who formerly worked for The Sharper Image, to learn about the process of developing a pet product. In this article, I continue with interview and learn about the project that brought them back together.
Dr. Yin: So, tell me about this product, The Foobler. Who decided to make this product, and when did you guys decide to get together and work on it?
Tristan: Foobler we’ve been working on for about a year now. It is, basically, if you’re familiar with smart toys out there, feeder toys for your dog to play around with. It holds treats – it dispenses treats as your dog knocks it around. The idea, though, with this is, it doesn’t just dump 1 group of treats out, it actually holds 6 groups of treats that dispense over time. So as your dog plays with it, it’ll spill treats out. Once he’s finished playing with it, he’ll generally leave it alone. But anywhere from 15–90 minutes later – it has a timer built into it – a bell will ring, and once again it’ll dispense treats and the dog can play with it all over again, and get his snacks.
Dr. Yin: So, he can have 6 different meal sessions dispersed throughout the day.
Tristan: Exactly, throughout the day. Instead of the usual smart toys that are out there – you usually load them once, you put it down, your dog will knock out the treats and once he’s done, he’s done. With this, it’s like 6 separate meals throughout the day.
Dr. Yin: I can see where that would be really useful, especially for owners who want the meal to last more than just that short 2 minutes, or even 5 minutes. Sometimes, even some of the other food toys may dispense the food too quickly or require that they freeze the food. For me, I don’t have time to freeze toys unless I have one toy for each day of the week, which would allow me to prep all the toys at the same time. So Foobler™ seems like a really useful type of product. How come nobody has developed this before?
Tristan: There aren’t a lot of powered dog toys out there. Usually the fear is that something that’s battery-operated or mechanical, a dog’s going to destroy it, it’ll become useless within a couple plays. With what we did here is, we definitely needed the motor mechanism to operate this, and what we did is, we subdivided the batteries, the motor, and a real dinging bell, which actually calls your dog’s attention to the toy, away from the rest of the unit that would get dirty and used up during the day. It can be washed, cleaned and dried, and then you can put the support unit, the motor unit, back into the unit and use it again. Nice and clean and simple.
Dr. Yin: So that makes it really even more convenient because, it’s easy to fill up the product and you can also easily clean it in a dishwasher. So I can see even at a shelter they could be able to use this because they can disinfect it.
Greg: It really is just as easy as using a regular food bowl. I mean, in the morning, you just get up to 2 cups of your dog’s kibble, open the top, pour it in the 6 chambers, and turn on the power button.
Tristan: The cool thing about it is, if you want them to eat a little bit in the morning, but more in the afternoon, you can definitely dial up the amount, or dial down the amount of time between meals.
Dr. Yin: Did you try it on your own dogs?
Greg: I tested it on my puppy. I didn’t have to train my puppy how to use this, and I can’t say that’s gonna be the case for every dog. But he liked just how it wobbled around and the look of the ball and he started playing with it, and then when he saw treats coming out, then, you know, that just made it even that much easier and more enjoyable for him to play with. And then when he hears the bell, he knows that there’s more food available to play with and to satisfy him. So you’ve got mental stimulation, physical stimulation, and spreading the feeding over the course of the day, or, you know, you can also do the shorter time if you’re just going to the store for 15 minutes.
Tristan: These are a lot of things that we learned working with you. Really valuable over the years is pulling on all that basic knowledge and saying “this is how a dog should properly eat throughout the day,” rather than what people do, you know, just out of being almost like absent parents throughout the day. They’ll just fill the bowl full of kibble, let the dog decide on his own when it’s time to eat. And there’s a lot of situations where that’s just not the right thing to do.
Dr. Yin: I’m guessing a lot of people will be interested in getting one. So how can people get it?
Fred: Right now, it is available as presale on Kickstarter.com which is the crowd-funding area online. What you can do is you buy something, and when it’s actually ready, they deliver it. So we actually have an expected delivery date of April 2014 for the Foobler.™ People all over the world have really jumped in and supported our project.
Dr. Yin: Great, and I think I know a lot of clients who will be getting one once it comes out because it’s always great to get a product like this that actually works.
Go to the Foobler Kickstarter page to learn how to back this product!