University of Colorado Boulder Workshop: Designing Technology for Dogs

The field of animal-computer interaction (ACI) studies how to create interfaces and methods that allow animals to use technology. This one-day workshop held in ATLAS at The University of Boulder Colorado explored the field of ACI, focusing specifically on dog-computer interaction (DCI) and how to design dog-computer products that address the needs, wants and limitations of the dog end-user. This blog gives the findings from the workshop as well as materials to those who attended.

Workshop Activities:
• Design a remote-control product for a dog user, based on the persona tool provided.
• Redesign the remote control product to be user-centric for dogs.
• Critically assess the effectiveness of product designs.

Useful links:

Persona set and blank personas

Persona data

Psychophysics of Dogs

Lecture Slides

Event Information

Workshop Output – Task One

Four teams of dog technology developers were made and set about on the first task of designing a dog remote to allow a dog to turn on and off a TV device and change the channel. These designs were based upon the personas given (see above for download link).

AARF – Alleviating Ageing Ramifications For… Senior Pups 

This group made a dog bed that turned on the TV device when the dog was sat in the bed. The bed also sensed the dogs biofeedback to provide medical feedback for the owner with stress and anxiety.


Team Two

This team used the puppy and rescue personas as they were both food motivated, new to their home and both dogs were young. The designs made by Team Two were of a TV device with a rope pull toy which allows messages to be sent to the TV device and to the human. As part of this system, by pulling another rope the harness the dog would be wearing would be squeezed to simulate being hugged. To further aim this device around the dog the two rope pullies included different smells, one of the owner and one of chicken. Lastly, the device also had a 3 minute turn inbuilt so that if a dog was not paying attention to the screen the device would turn off.



This remote system was based upon a one button ball control joystick based system. The ball system would admit a tone associated with the channel change so that a dog could learn to associate these sounds. This team also put forward the idea of having alternate accessories such as balls.




Nuzzleflicks made a nose touch sensor pressure plate to allow the dogs nose to change the TV channel. They had a strong design focus of playful technology and wanted there system to be adaptable for the dog based upon the differences spotted within the personas.


Task Two

Task two was to redesign these remotes based upon the gathered knowledge around the philosophical stance of dog centred computing. There were certain limitations put upon the designers such as no use of buttons, the system to be required to fit in with the dogs senses (see psychophysics of dogs sheet above).

AARF – Alleviating Ageing Ramifications For… Senior Pups 

AARF turned there buttons into sniff bins instead where the smell correlated with the TV being shown (i.e. if bunnies then the smell outputting would be of rabbits). They also introduced two beds, one fitting with the device and one not so that the dog could choose to use the technology as a form of consent. This team also wanted to include machine learning within the dog bed to learn what the dog wants over time.


Team Two

Team Two added more tactile input features to the pullie roles by adding bumps to them. They also wanted to add in machine learning features that went off biosensors feedback from the dog so that the TV would avoid showing media to the dog that he/she does not like.



Team Jaystuff where concerned with the issue of immediate feedback and this impact between the space of playing with the toy and the changing of the TV channel. They also realised there was a dilemma between the dog enjoying playing with the ball toy and watching the TV where the dog may want to play but not change the channel. They also spoke about the frustration the dog may face that the ball can not fully be flicked and mentioned to be fully dog centric and take the human out of the picture. They indicated this could be done by allowing the ball to hit into the TV to stop the device (but noted that the human would get frustrated!) or loop under the floor so that the dog will not be distracted by the ball when he/she is paying attention to a TV show. Lastly Jaystuff also spoke about adding in Fitbark to help inform the system.



Nuzzleflicks revamped their design by creating a dog-bone style remote that was chewable and incorporated smells that a dog would enjoy. They chose to decorate there design in colours suitable for a dog and flavoured the bone. Lastly to promote longevity of the remote they suggested Nuzzleflicks have removable sleeves that the owner could buy different ones to attract their dog individually.


Workshop Findings 

Feeding back the participants spoke about how it can be hard to make things dog centric, as we are not dogs, enjoyed learning about different animal technologies and of course designed lovely new dog screen products!

News article on workshop


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