Connect the unconnected and that's exactly what three cat-loving Ph.D. students at the University of Illinois did with their robotic cat toy that reacts to your cat - yup, and they're claiming (I trust them, since this is their passion) Mousr is the first of its kind. The little mouse just raised $116,000 on Kickstarter without a huge professional PR blitz (well...they did put together a rap to support it) and is already taking $150 pre-orders via their website.
Prior to launching their campaign, they moved to Shenzhen, China to start prototyping and connecting with the appropriate experts. "Being in China allowed us to evaluate a dozen different possible solutions faster than we could have anywhere else."
Mousr is engineered to enable the cat to engage in its natural hunting patterns. The 360 degree vision of the toy enables it to detect the cat from any direction, and the inertial measurement unit combines motion sensing technologies so it can move precisely and stay on track. Want to have a little fun with it yourself? They've included Bluetooth, so you can take control of Mousr and control it from their smartphone app.
Dave Cohen, one of the co-founders of Mousr, sheds a bit more light about their successfully funded invention.
I have an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Also on the team are a Ph.D. and another M.S. in electrical engineering, a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, and a serial entrepreneur. Our primary research focus in grad school has been on signal processing and artificial intelligence.
At the moment we are leaning toward using an LPC4330 ARM Cortex-M0/-M4 MCU from NXP (author note: not sure if they're purchasing it from Mouser Electronics - sorry, I'm not funny). Additional key hardware includes a 360 degree vision system (CMOS imager + custom lens), inertial measurement unit, and loud speaker. The real magic behind Mousr is the signal processing and algorithms that give him his intelligence.
It started essentially as a shower thought: wouldn’t it be cool if there was a toy that could sense a cat and run away from it? I brought the idea to Michael Friedman (known to friends as "Doom"), our resident cat enthusiast extraordinaire, and together we built the first prototype. After seeing how well the idea worked, we brought on David Jun, a true embedded systems wizard, and we moved to China to develop Mousr full-time. Collectively the founding team has 6 cats, 4 of which belong to Doom.
In some sense I think our most challenging hurdles are yet to come in the manufacturing process. But for prototyping, finding the right sensing technology was definitely the trickiest part. We explored every kind of proximity sensing technology you can think of. Some worked better than others, but nothing ever felt truly right until we came up with the 360 degree vision system we’re using today.
No matter if you’re building something for fun or for commercial sale, always keep your end-user in mind. For us, that’s cats. For you, it might be as broad as kids or as specific as women over 55 with dark hair. Who knows - but make sure your design decisions are made with them in mind. You might think it’d be cool to throw WiFi on your robot, but is it important to the user experience? Of course if you are the end user, put as much WiFi on there as you want!
We’re probably the wrong guys to ask. We put ours together in a week without paying for a professional video or spending a ton of time on media outreach. If you look at some of the “DOs and DON’Ts of launching a Kickstarter” stuff out there online, I think we probably did just about everything on the DON’T list. But hey, we ended up being successful, which goes to show you don’t have to follow any specific formula. Our biggest goals in creating the campaign were to be honest, show our personalities, and make people laugh while they were visiting our page. I think it worked well for us.
Congrats to these young entrepreneurs and best of luck with Mousr! Mousr is one of 50 Kickstarter Innovations Based on ARM hosted on the recently launched 'ARM-based Projects' curated page on Kickstarter.
Will mouser be selling this ?
Looks pretty cool
That project is going to be the essence of hours of new YouTube cat videos.
When the idea is great, people pass it around without needing to push too hard. I know I am sharing it now!