WeirdRTC: YoPet keeps your pet from being lonely

In the last few years of working with WebRTC, we occasionally come across some truly unique, interesting, funny or even crazy uses of WebRTC. As app developers, we enjoy this kind of thing quite a bit. After all, it’s not the technology that is important, it’s the application of the technology. We’ve decided to start sharing some of our favorite oddball WebRTC apps in a new series I lovingly call #WeirdRTC.

YoPet makes for happy pets

My first WeirdRTC app comes from my friend Tim Panton. Tim is a really unique character: not only has he been doing web-based telecommunications longer than practically anyone else out there, he’s also remarkably creative and unbelievably capable. Given how approachable and humble he is, he’s one of my favorite people to chat with when we end up at a conference together.

YoPet logoAt TADHack 2014 in Madrid last year, Tim started telling me of this idea he had about WebRTC and Parrots. You see, parrots are very social animals, and they can get lonely. As a parrot owner, wouldn’t it be great if you could check in on your winged buddy while at work? Get a little face-time with your favorite Polly-want-a-cracker? Well thanks to Tim, now you can.

Solving some interesting usability problems

YoPet is a neat service that allows just that: two-way video communication for you and your pet. Tim had to solve some interesting challenges in making this happen too:

  • Security: How to easily enroll devices and authenticate them so that all calls would be secure? The answer turns out to be a very sleek enrollment process powered by QR codes and JavaScript-based image recognition.

  • Power usage: mobile devices can’t stay awake with the screen on all day long without being plugged in – the battery simply won’t handle it. One of the ways he deals with this is blanking the screen when no call is active.

  • Completing the call: you see, very few parrots have opposable thumbs, much less capacitive fingertips. This makes it relatively hard for them to answer an incoming WebRTC call. By making the pet-end of the connection auto-answer, it’s easy to say hello to your feathery friend.

YoPet has a neat video demonstrating the product:

Where else can this go?

If you think about the use-case for WebRTC here, and how Tim solved these problems, you can start to see some other interesting WebRTC possibilities. The immediate one that jumps to mind is a home security video system accessible from any web browser. Using the QR code to enroll devices couldn’t be easier. This could also work as a baby or babysitter monitor. It’s an interesting solution to the problems both of enrollment, and also secure remote activation.

My lawyers remind me to assure you that no parrots were harmed in the creation of this video. Polly want a cracker?

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