PlayDate Review

A Smart Ball Aims To Entertain Your Pets

Hardware Criteria7.7
Software Criteria5.6
Pet Protection and Entertainment3.9
Hands-on Authority and User Reviews4.1
5.3
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Though we were hoping to go hands-on with PlayDate at CES 2017, we were only able to stare at it. After raising more than 600% of their Indiegogo goal, PlayDate is now taking on a second round of backers. Should you be one of them?

What Is PlayDate?

Speaking from experience, dogs can become destructive when bored. I once left my furry friend alone for eight hours thinking water and food would suffice. It cost me a pillow, a couple of computer wires, and a month-long supply of toilet paper to realize I was wrong. That day, I learned my lesson, never leave him without a toy or two.

Fortunately, technology has paved the way for pet-focused gadgets. We've reviewed a treat-tossing pet camera called Furbo and compared it to a treat-dispensing pet cam called Petzi. Now, we’re also adding PlayDate to the list.

PlayDate is an interactive pet camera. It doesn’t just sit on a table and watch your pets; it actually walks, or in this case, rolls. The camera is shelled inside a sturdy ball that moves at your command. Commands are sent via the smartphone app, while it simultaneously sends live video feed to your phone. And don’t worry about getting dizzy while watching the video; the camera is stabilized so that no matter where PlayDate rolls, it stays upright and forward-facing. It offers options to take snapshots, record videos, and activate two-way audio.

The current prototype can give your pets up to 30 minutes of play time before it needs recharging. It recharges on a wireless charging cradle, but you’ll have to drive it to the cradle manually.

Playing With Your Pets

playdate

A pet’s logic is simple: If it moves, they play with it. That is what makes PlayDate an excellent pet toy. Aside from the fact that it moves, it also has other features that will engage your pets. By pressing the squeak button on the smartphone app, you can make PlayDate squeak. You can even record your own squeak to sound like their favorite toy or record your voice for a more personal touch.

If squeaking isn’t your pet’s thing, then maybe lights will do the trick? PlayDate has 2 LED lights that turn on while the device is in use. The lights quickly get the attention of most cats, and sometimes even dogs. On the other hand, if your pet is frightened by lights, you can turn the feature off. There is also an Auto-Play Mode for when you don’t have time to play. This mode makes PlayDate move randomly so your pet can interact without your involvement. Finally, you can activate two-way voice to speak to your pet. They may not understand you, but they do know the sound of your voice, and that’s enough to make them happy.

For Pets Of All Sizes

The creators of PlayDate are well aware that pets come in all shapes and sizes, so they offer variations. PlayDate comes in 2 sizes: the 3" and the 4".

The 3” version is best for toy breeds and average sized cats. The 4” version is for medium to large dog breeds and larger cats. Both sizes come in dog and cat versions. The only difference is that the cat version has a slit on the outer shell where you can tie a ribbon… cats love ribbons.

For All Sizes, But What About All Temperaments?

My biggest concern, however, is its durability. I wouldn’t worry if my little dog engaged with PlayDate. She’ll probably kick it around for a good 5 minutes then fall asleep for the next 2 hours. But I worry about my hyperactive big boy, who doesn’t give up until his toys are in pieces. Will PlayDate be able to stand up to him?

PlayDate’s outer shell is made of shatterproof polycarbonate. Polycarbonates have properties similar to plastic but are a lot tougher and are often used to engineer durable materials. Even if your pet bites, kicks, or drops it, there’s still a chance it will survive. The camera and other electrical components are protected by shock absorbers and a little waterproofing.

However sturdy it is, PlayDate is not indestructible… no pet toy is. So if your pet manages to destroy the outer shell, you can order replacement shells. The estimated cost of a replacement shell is $10, but the price may change once PlayDate retails.

Price & Availability

PlayDate is pre-selling for $189 per device, which is 24% off the expected retail price. They plan to ship the first batch of PlayDates in March.

That said, a couple of warnings. PlayDate hasn't been overly candid concerning the camera's specifications. The resolution and the ability for the camera to see at night are two unknown factors. If the camera quality is poor and if it lacks night vision, it may not be such a deal at all.

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