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Can dogs make phone calls?

Answer: They can if they have a DogPhone.

Portrait of a labrador retriever holding the receiver of a rotary phone in its mouth on a white background.
Shutterstock/IKO-studio
There’s so much technology out there today that lets us check in on our dogs when we’re away, but what if we could make that go both ways? That was the thinking of a research team at Scotland’s University of Glasgow when they built the DogPhone.

It’s a pretty simple setup, really. The team put a sensor inside a ball toy and when the dog moved the ball, the sensor would activate a video call on a nearby laptop with the pup’s owner. The team then conducted a weeks-long test period with team member Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas’ 10-year-old labrador Zack.

“It was very exciting to get calls from him initially,” Hirskyj-Douglas said. She commented that by the end she had come to expect him to call at certain times of the day and would start to worry if he didn’t. It’s unclear whether Zack actually figured out that playing with that particular ball was what initiated the calls or not, but the team still considers the experiment a resounding success. Hirskyj-Douglas said it showed that “we can really form technology very differently for animals. Animals can be active users of technology, they can control technology, we just really need to reshape our thinking about how we see the future of dog technology.”
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