Today, we're going to compare two...er… balls. But these balls aren't ordinary or anatomical. They are high-tech. Each ball has a built-in camera, and the same mission: Keep your pets active and entertained. Meet PlayDate and Pebby.
Both smart balls are pet cameras, allowing you to check on your furry friends even when you're not home. Second, they're interactive pet toys. Using your smartphone, you can make them move around. Third, they are Wi-Fi connected, allowing you to interact with your pets remotely.
Despite their similarities, however, PlayDate and Pebby are also different and those differences make one better than the other. So without much further ado, let's compare.
PlayDate has the distinction of being first to market. We've reviewed it independently, and we were able to stare at it during CES 2017. The product of a successful crowdfunding campaign, PlayDate was supposed to start shipping December 2016, but due to technical issues, the shipping date has been pushed back to July.
While you can no longer back PlayDate and receive deep discounts and perks, you can still pre-order it for $189 on IndieGoGo, 24% less than the MSRP ($249).
Pebby is also a crowdfunded product, but it's newer. However, they already have a working prototype, which could possibly result in an earlier shipping date. In fact, it's set to start shipping in May to the first batch of backers.
Like PlayDate, you can still pre-order Pebby. You probably won't get it in May, but you'll still be able to receive Pebby before it hits the market. They are now taking pre-orders on IndieGoGo for as low as $189.
Round 1: Durability
As a proud dad of a highly active Labrador Retriever, I can attest that no toy is indestructible. Even the toughest ones won't last for more than a month. This is fine with me because those toys usually cost less than $10. But a toy that costs nearly $200? If destroyed, that would be a tough pill to swallow.
Both PlayDate and Pebby have taken measures to ensure that their smart balls can endure heavy roughhousing. In fact, in this area, they've used the same technology.
The first durability measure is found in the outer shell. Their outer shells are made of a durable polycarbonate, a tough plastic-like material that encases everything from the camera to the batteries. Polycarbonate is shatterproof and is used by engineers to create lightweight yet tough products. Tough as it may be, it isn't indestructible. PlayDate and Pebby's solution to this problem is to make their outer shells replaceable. This way, customers can upkeep their toys simply by replacing the outer shell. PlayDate will be selling replacement shells for around $10, and Pebby is now taking pre-orders of their outer shell for $15 with a pair of EASYfixTM inner caps (more on this later) included.
The second durability measure is ensuring that the electronics inside are safe from shock. This time, an inner shell does the job.
PlayDate's inner shell is made of orange plastic with an opening for the camera. It shelves all the electronic components of PlayDate. The inner shell is suspended inside the outer shell in a way that even if the ball is thrown around, the electronics are protected.
The same concept is applied to Pebby, but instead of using a plain plastic shell, they used colorful, interchangeable caps (EASYfixTM magnetic inner caps). You can purchase different designs from Pebby and "dress up" the smart ball as you please.
Ball For All Pet Sizes
Finally, PlayDate offers size variants for different-sized pets. The standard variant is 3 inches in diameter which is meant for small and toy dog breeds. For pets that are on the larger side, PlayDate offers the 4-inch ball. The 4-inch ball has the same features as the 3-inch version. In fact, the cost is also the same.
Right now, Pebby doesn't offer sizing options. Their smart ball comes in one size: 80mm (3.14 inches diameter). If your pet is large and mouthy, a 3-inch ball might be too small. But don't lose all hope: Pebby has announced that in the future, they MIGHT create a smaller and larger version.
As both balls use the same methods to toughen up, I'd say they are in the same boat. However, PlayDate has a slight edge as they offer a larger ball for larger pets.
Round 2: Camera
Now that we've established that both smart balls are durable, or at least not too expensive to upkeep, let's proceed to the more technical stuff, starting with their cameras.
The camera plays a major role in both smart balls. It (1) lets you monitor your pets from outside your home and (2) serves as your visual guide when controlling the ball from a remote location.
PlayDate's camera is safely positioned in a hollow part of the inner shell, a little higher than the center of the ball. Little is known about the camera's specs, except that it records and streams in HD resolution and that it is stabilized. It also has a pair of lights that turn on when you start playing with PlayDate. While these lights are mainly for catching the attention of pets, they can also function as headlights for night vision.
While streaming, the PlayDate app gives you the option to take snapshots, record videos, or even activate two-way talk. There's no mention of any built-in storage options (local or cloud storage), so I'm assuming that recorded clips and photos will be downloaded to your smartphone.
Pebby's camera, on the other hand, is positioned directly within the ball's center. Looking from afar, it kind of looks like a fancy PokeBall. The camera records and streams in 720p, has a wide-angle fisheye lens, and comes with LED headlights built specifically for night vision. Pebby's camera, as well as all the internal electronics, are gyro-stabilized.
Like PlayDate, the app interface allows you record clips and capture photos, which I assume will also be downloaded to your phone.
Pebby offers up more details about their camera, so I'm calling them the winner for now.
Round 3: Playing With Your Pets
For products such as PlayDate and Pebby, one of the most vital questions to ask is, "What kind of interactive experience do they offer?".
We already know that the premise of both smart balls is the same: you control the ball from afar and play with your pet. However, there are also other factors.
Pets require hours of play time, so your smart ball must be as energetic as your pet.
PlayDate's current prototype offers 30 minutes of play time. Luckily, you can charge the ball even when you're not home. Simply drive the ball back to its charging cradle, and it will start charging wirelessly.
On the other hand, Pebby can last up to 90 minutes on a single charge. Not only that, but the docking procedure is automatic. All you need to do is drive Pebby near the Pebby Kennel (wireless charging dock) and it will automatically align and dock itself.
Winner: For obvious reasons, Pebby.
Both smart balls come with an auto-play feature for when you can't spend your time controlling them. This feature is simple: activate it and the ball starts moving on its own. However, Pebby's auto-play feature is more intelligent, thanks to the Pebby Collar.
The Pebby Collar is like a FitBit for your pet, designed to be attached to your pet's collar. It syncs with your smart ball and sends data to the Pebby app, such as your pet's activity level and mobility. But aside from keeping track of your pet, it also guides Pebby during auto-play. It connects to the ball via Bluetooth and guides the ball towards your pet, making Pebby's auto-play feature more interactive.
Other Play Features
There are also other features that can make play time more entertaining for you and your pets. These features include squeakers, ribbons, and even lasers.
PlayDate offers both squeakers and the option to add ribbons. The ball comes pre-programmed with a "squeak", which you can activate using the smartphone app interface. If you want, you can also record your own "squeak". You can use the sound of your pet's favorite squeaky toy or even your voice.
If you're more of a cat person, then you'll most likely appreciate the fact that PlayDate's outer shell has a tiny slit where you can tie a ribbon.
Pebby doesn't have a squeaker. Instead, it has a speaker that supports two-way talk so that you can have conversations with your fur buddies.
One of the features that I like most about Pebby is the nudge/bark notification. Dogs, when they want to play with their toys, usually bark at them or nudge them. If your pets do this with Pebby, you'll get a notification. From there, you can either start playing with your pet or activate the auto-play feature.
What about cats? Pebby comes equipped with one of their favorite things: a laser. An inch above Pebby's camera is a pet-safe laser pointer.
Winner: PlayDate has some features that Pebby doesn't and vice versa, so the answer depends on what features you think will make the smart ball the best for your pet. Personally, I like Pebby's features better.
So which do you think reigns supreme? Based on the criteria above, Pebby seems to have the upper hand. They have the right features in place and they seem to be on schedule for their May 2017 shipping date. They also offer more customization for pet fashionistas and added accessories that can help you track your pet's health. If you're trying to choose between the two smart balls, I'd say Pebby is the better choice.
If you're ready to make the purchase, you can go straight to their IndieGoGo pre-order page. The $189 pre-order price includes the ball, a Pebby Collar, and a Pebby Kennel (charging dock).