San Francisco-based startup Companion Labs is revolutionizing the way pets interact with their furry friends. A company has developed an AI-powered dog treat dispenser that aims to improve the experience of remote communication with pets. This cutting-edge technology allows pet owners to better understand subtle changes in their dogs’ body language.
Founded in 2017 by John Honchariw, Companion Labs has been working on an all-in-one device that uses computer vision and machine learning to analyze a dog’s movements and dispense a treat after the dog follows instructions or commands. The company recently announced a successful $6 million funding round, bringing its total funding to $14 million. Lerer Hippeau, Digitalis Ventures, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, Wheelhouse Partners, PETStock and Mars Petcare participated in the investment round.
Although the device is currently designed for dogs, Companion Labs plans to expand its ability to serve cats and other common pets in the future. Honchariw, who has a background in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, has worked with deep-tech startups and collaborated with Google’s artificial intelligence and robotics research groups. He is passionate about using new technologies to help different species understand each other and promote empathy.
Companion Labs originally aimed to create smart devices for pet-centric businesses such as shelters and boarding services. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape as many people adopted pets during the lockdown and faced the easing of restrictions due to re-segregation fear. As a result, the company turned to consumer-oriented product design.
The updated device had to be not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing, and it had to be accompanied by a consumer-oriented application. While there are other smart devices on the market that combine computer vision, automatic treatment and remote monitoring, Companion Labs’ system has even more sophistication and computing power. The device prioritizes the dog’s experience and aims to actively engage the pet for hours of fun and interaction.
According to Grand Market Insights, the pet technology market is expected to reach $35 billion by 2032. As pet owners become more aware of the importance of their pets’ health and well-being, the demand for innovative pet monitoring devices is increasing. Companion Labs plans to expand its team to about 25 over the next year and start shipping devices in early 2024. Pre-order costs $49 and devices start at $49 per month.