Off Leash: I Feel Kitty, Oh So Kitty
A new Web-based system drives users to shelter websites—to play with cats in real time
It’s totally obvious: Even with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the gazillion other niche-interest websites out there (IHateCilantro.com, anyone?), the Internet had barely tapped into its true procrastination potential.
Now, thanks to an innovative tool called the iPet Companion, you—and cat-loving Web denizens everywhere—can spend hours playing with live cats, using only a few buttons on your keyboard. And since it’s for a good cause—giving shelter kitties something to do, and perhaps driving up cat adoption rates into the bargain—you don’t even have to feel bad about it (though if you tell your employer we said that, we will deny it).
Developed by Apriori, a robotics company in Boise, Idaho, the system wasn’t initially conceived as a long-distance cat toy, says Scott Harris, the company’s owner. Harris worked in the photovoltaic and semiconductor business for years, and says situations regularly crop up where something goes wrong in a control room somewhere, and engineers need to hit a “reset” button to get things restarted. Sometimes that means “driving 45 minutes at 2 A.M.,” and in cases where the control room was thousands of miles away or in another country, it might involve two days of travel. Harris and his team envisioned a system that would enable the user to see the button and use robotic controls to push it, live, over the Web, potentially saving huge amounts of time and trouble for those managing distant systems.