A technology company is working to combat dementia in dogs by creating special video games to help combat the health condition. The people behind Joipaw say they have created an Apple Health-style tracker that can measure canine health. It includes an interactive whack-a-mole-style game that provides data on the pet‘s state of mind - and the company hopes that the data will help vets to diagnose and treat the disease quicker.
Joipaw is the brainchild of Dersim Avdar and Marco Jenny, who say the aim is to alert dog owners if any abnormal behaviour is detected in their furry friend.
“We joked about buying video games - and then made one”
The game was created after Dersim was looking for a way to entertain his new pooch when he was out of the house. Dersim Avdar, 31, who helped to develop the app said: “Originally, my wife and I adopted a rescue in Hong Kong and were looking for a solution to keep him busy while we were away, because we knew he was just miserable with nothing to do while we worked full time.
"Our friends had the same issue, and current solutions in the market haven’t changed fundamentally in the last decades. We joked about buying him video games, because we grew up as gamers, and I did some research to see if there was anything of the sort to buy.
"I didn’t find products, but I did find recent academic research that was trying to measure dogs’ cognitive evolution as they age, with a touchscreen based apparatus. One line in the paper caught my attention, saying that multiple dogs kept playing by themselves even if they were left alone with the device and didn’t get any reward for doing so. So they seemed to enjoy it and we could stimulate them like this? That was my aha moment.”
Help dogs to live healthier lives
The technology created by Joipaw is simple for dog owners to use with their pet. Dogs wear the tracker on their collar and it then sends data on their activities to the app, for example steps taken, time spent resting, time spent playing and time spent walking.
The pooches also play games on the console and receive treats when they’re successful. The technology is able to gather cognitive data in the background, which is also shown in the app. Owners then get an overview of their dog’s health on an app, and that could provide early warnings in case anything out of the ordinary is detected by the hardware.
Dersim said: “We developed a quick prototype, tested it with friends, gathered larger amounts of feedback with online surveys, developed a second prototype and tested it, and now we’ve had dog owners booking to buy the product on the Joipaw website.
"Beyond the entertainment side, our goal with this venture is to help dogs live healthier lives through enrichment and bonding with their owners, and we also want to show the world how intelligent dogs are, because we humans tend to empathise and take better care of others when we realise they’re closer to us than we think.
“Imagine Apple Health, but for dogs. This is what Joipaw is at its core, a health tracking and stimulation offering to improve dogs’ lives. We improve their physical and cognitive health by turning daily exercise into a lifestyle with our gaming console, wearable tracker and app."
Video games tailored to your dog
Dersim says Joipaw’s approach is based on years of experience in both software and hardware mixed with decades of research on dog cognition and animal-computer interaction. The app is now being tested with multiple dogs to get feedback on the current version of the system. Dersim said: "Your dog can play stimulating video games tailored to their needs, and you can see how well it’s doing – maybe even compete with your neighbour’s dog.”