Physical Science Blog

Puppy Tweets Unleashes Dogs on Twitter

Mattel's new toy collar for dogs allows them to update their own Twitter accounts

February 16, 2010

If you saw Pixar’s 2009 computer-animated film Up, you’ll likely remember the character of Dug: a lovable golden retriever who can talk, thanks to a collar that translates his thoughts.

I know what you’re hoping to read next. Something like, “Now, scientists have invented just such a collar! Soon we will we unravel all the mysteries of non-human animal communication!”

Well, I must disappoint you. Scientists have created no such collar. But one of the world’s largest toy companies, Mattel Inc, has made something even better: Puppy Tweets.

Yes, you read that right. Twitter. For dogs.

Here’s how it works. Mattel provides dog owners with a USB receiver and “special” software to install on their computers. Owners then attach a pretty plastic tag (available in blue or pink) to their dog’s collar. When the wirelessly-enabled tag senses movement or barking, it randomly selects one of 500 pre-programmed Tweets and activates the USB receiver waiting in the owner’s laptop, which automatically updates the dog’s very own Twitter account.

And, pray tell, what clever turns of phrase and fascinating factoids will Fido contribute to the Twittersphere? Such delightful and witty phrases as “Guess what I’m licking right now?” and “I finally caught that tail I’ve been chasing, and . . . OOUUUCHH!” and “I bark because I miss you. There, I said it. Now hurry home.”

Of course, because the Tweets are randomly generated, owners may start to notice that their dogs aren’t actually doing what they’re Tweeting. In that case, Mattel executives will politely remind their customers that “it’s only a toy.”

“It is a new frontier for us,” Mattel Brands President Neil Friedman told The Los Angeles Times. “We think it could be the start of a new wave of products for people to interact with their pets.”

That’s so smart. Without the help of innovate new products like Puppy Tweets, how would people interact with their pets? After all, dogs are notoriously aloof and antisocial, rarely acknowledging their owners. It’s impossible to get a puppy excited about anything. And don’t even try to pet your dog — he’ll hate that!

Mattel recently showcased Puppy Tweets at the 2010 American International Toy Fair in New York City. You can expect the product to hit stores sometime between June and fall of this year, for a retail price of around $30.

I’ll confess. There is one dog I might follow on Twitter, if he joins: Tillman, the amazing skateboarding dog made famous on YouTube. I somehow feel he would be among the more interesting pooches.

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About the Author

Ferris Jabr has a Bachelors of Science from Tufts University and an MA in journalism from New York University. You can follow him on Twitter @ferrisjabr.

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