The Furbo is a reasonably expensive security camera that feeds your pet treats on your command through your smartphone. It's another in a long line of innovations in the world of internet-connected devices.
Pros: The Furbo has great resolution and connects seamlessly through your smartphone. The microphone and treat feature work well, and manage to entertain your furry companion endlessly.
Cons: The alarm leaves a lot to be desired, with sporadic alerts that don't really recognise actual barks.
There are a few treat delivery products on the market, but the sleek Furbo seems to have gotten it almost completely correct. We're looking forward to them tweaking their system so it doesn't accidentally trigger false alerts.
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What does the Furbo do?
The Furbo has a few features worth paying attention to, including:
- a security camera with great resolution for live viewing
- treat feeding with a swipe of your finger
- night vision
- a microphone so you can listen in on your pet
- a speaker so you can call to your pet through the Furbo.
Setting up the Furbo
The Furbo has a smooth installation process with a smartphone app that's easily downloaded (Android or Apple).
Once downloaded, set-up through your Wi-Fi is quick and seamless. You create a login through the Furbo app and then you're good to go after a simple firmware update.
Keep in mind the Furbo needs to be plugged into power to function.
You can set the bark alarm sensitivity so that it reacts at different volume levels, but we found noises other than barks set it off.
Use treats that are roughly thumbnail-sized, and refill just by popping the lid off and dumping the treats in.
To feed a treat to your pet through the Furbo, you need to be logged into the Furbo app. From the camera screen, a simple gesture makes the Furbo give a short alarm and pops the treat out onto the space in front. It's not a harsh force, but can travel about a metre. Occasionally the treat dispenser might not fire due to treats getting lodged inside.
You can also press the mic button on the app and speak to your pet through the device. We assume this might calm your pet once it's used to the fact that a voice is coming out of a device that also distributes treats.
One of the neat things about the Furbo is it does give you a running tally of how many treats you've given to your pet. You can generally see them come out of the dispenser but it's handy to have the tally so you don't overfeed your pet.
It's a very basic app with a sparse main screen that includes functions to:
- set up your dog's profile and avatar
- tap to launch a live view
- see how many treats you've given your dog that day.
Other settings that can be adjusted are:
- a snacks call (a recording is played before a treat is thrown)
- night vision (on auto by default)
- the barking alert (we set this to 'high' as lower volumes didn't give an alert notification on our phone)
- volume (even at 100% it appeared that our voice wasn't loud enough through the Furbo's speaker).
In live video mode, you'll see a landscape view of the video, with icons for recording stills and video, a microphone for speaking, and a treat-throwing icon in the middle. Simply swipe up from the treat to make the Furbo shoot out a treat.
Video quality can be adjusted from the menu within the video screen. Up to 1080p is supported, but 720p and 360p can be used if upload bandwidth is less than 1Mbps (which for ADSL2+ users it is – 1080p will work best on the NBN, which has uploads greater than 1Mbps).
- Video quality is very good in terms of definition, colour, and motion.
- You can pinch to zoom digitally up to 4x.
- Colour doesn't look splotchy, and there's no noticeable fringing.
- Motion is 15 frames per second in 1080p mode.
- There is some distorting of the aspect ratio due to the 160-degree field of view.
Actual view from Furbo
Motion events and barking alerts
It's important to note that the Furbo doesn't automatically record motion events by default – you can only use it to view a video stream manually (when you want to check in to see what your dog is doing, for example, or when you get a barking alert).
Barking alerts are supported by default and they worked during our tests when we played a YouTube video of a dog barking through a phone, but were much less effective with real barking.
Can you record video?
You can record still images and video manually by tapping the relevant icons on the screen while viewing the video. These will be stored on your phone.
In some other countries (US, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan) users can trial the Furbo Dog Nanny subscription, which uploads recorded motion events (dog or human) to Furbo's servers, which is then viewable anywhere with an internet connection.
Is the Furbo worth the cost?
The Wi-Fi-enabled Furbo costs around $359, depending on where you get it from. That's above average compared to the security cameras in our latest review which range between $29 and $357. However, none of those security cameras can throw treats to your pet!
If you like the idea of seeing your pet, talking to your pet and throwing treats to your pet, then the Furbo is very much worth it.
Keep in mind its barking alerts leave a lot to be desired, so if that's a dealbreaker, perhaps look elsewhere.
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