Yes, you did read that correctly. A student startup called DogStar won this year’s $10,000 ECE Innovation Award by helping dog owners better connect with their pets… through their tails. The competition challenges students to design and develop technology that is based on computer and electrical engineering. They are also required to demonstrate the product’s business potential.
DogStar started out as a semester-long project that was assigned to Cornell Tech students who were working toward their MBA. Li Guo, Michael Karp, and Yanni Tsampalis pitched the DogStar tail tracker for the competition after the response they received from fellow students and faculty.
The device consists of a hardware piece that attaches to the dog’s tail and pairs with a mobile interface that tracks the dog’s tail movements and deciphers what they mean. Then owners can use the interface to better understand their canine companions. Dogs convey their emotions through tail movement and humans cannot always understand what they mean, and the trio is hoping to help with this issue.
For example, when you return home from work and your dog runs up to you with their tail wagging ferociously, it is easy to tell that they are happy, but what about when they are mad, aggravated, or scared? It’s not always as easy to read their body language, and the three students wanted to give dog owner’s a device that would help them understand their canine a little better.
The biggest challenge that the team faced was figuring out a way to attach the device to the dog’s tail without bothering them. They needed to make sure that the device itself wasn’t irritating the dog and changing their mood. They also had to make sure it was virtually undetectable by the canine so they didn’t try to chew it off.
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They worked with dog behavior specialists from the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine to create many different designs. Then they recruited friends and family to help them try out the different designs on their unsuspecting dogs. They used the results of their findings in their presentation for the Award.
The team will be using the money they won to create a custom-printed circuit board for the tail tracker. They are working toward developing a prototype that will be suitable for beta testing. The trio is very excited to move forward with the project, and they are hoping to see their device hit the consumer pet product market in the future.
You can find DogStar on Angel.co