This Smart Dog Bowl Monitors Your Pet's Diet and Food Supply

Having trouble keeping track of your best friend's diet? Thanks to a San Francisco-based team of dog lovers, there's now an app (and a bowl) for that.

The Obe ProBowl, designed by Matter, boasts a number of features that should make caring for a pet simpler. The bowl (when paired with the mobile app) can weigh the amount of food you pour into it and glows red once your pup has consumed the proper portion. It also keeps a log of feeding times, sends an alert when your dog isn't eating, and automatically orders more food when the supply is low. An Indiegogo campaign is underway to bring the product to pet owners everywhere.

There are other smart pet products on the market, like the PetNet Smartfeeder, that have added features such as hands-free feeding and programmable schedules. The tradeoff: They're significantly bulkier than the Obe ProBowl, which houses all of its electronics in the base. Check out the video above and the product's Indiegogo page to learn more about Matter's smart bowl.

[h/t FastCoDesign]

Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

Live Smarter
Why Your Pet's Food Bowl Might Be One of the Grossest Things in Your Kitchen

Although the well-worn sponge remains king of the germ colonies in an average kitchen, pet food bowls are giving them a run for their money, as Kitchn reports. According to public safety evaluators NSF International, pet bowls are among the filthiest surfaces in a home, harboring yeast, mold, and bacteria like E. coli. Yet most owners don’t wash them very often, mistakenly believing that dry foods don’t leave residue behind or that pets have a sturdy enough constitution to deal with the festering gunk.

Of the 30 objects that were swabbed for the study of 22 homes, pet bowls won out as the fourth germiest, not far behind kitchen sponges and dish rags, kitchen sinks, and toothbrush holders. The problem, according to veterinarian Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, is that germs like salmonella that linger in food and water bowls can cause illness in both pets and their owners. This is particularly true for the immunocompromised and children. The bowls pose a health risk for everyone in the household, and the only way to mitigate it is with regular cleaning.

Bowls should be cleaned with soapy water once daily and sanitized once a week. The latter includes soaking in bleach or running the bowls through high temperatures in a dishwasher. If you feed your pet a raw food diet, you might want to consider washing after each use or using disposable bowl liners that can be discarded after every meal.

According to Dr. Vogelsang, dry kibble is usually run through high heat during manufacturing, but it’s no guarantee that all bacteria has been eliminated. You also want to stick with stainless steel or ceramic bowls, as cracks in plastic can harbor germs.

While you’re at it, give food placemats a wash and your pet’s toys a good soak. Coupled with keeping your toilet lid down, the extra effort should minimize your pet’s exposure to bacteria that could make you both sick. Getting your dog to stop eating poop? That's another story.

[h/t Kitchn]


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