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CatFi Box is the Google Cardboard of smart cat feeders

Nicole Lee, @nicole
September 23, 2015
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Last year, Zillians launched a high-tech cat feeder called Bistro that'll monitor how much food and water your little feline is eating thanks to a smart built-in facial recognition camera. Since then, the company has renamed the product to the CatFi Pro, which is pretty much the same exact thing, except with a different name. But what if you don't have the $199 or so to drop on the CatFi Pro and you still want to keep tabs on kitty's diet? Well, Zillians has just come out with a less-functional but still-workable cardboard alternative called simply CatFi Box, which they showed off at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this week. Yep, all you need is a spare Android phone, a piece of cardboard and an Exacto knife to make your very own high-tech cardboard cat feeder. Think of it as Google Cardboard but for your cat. And you know, without that whole VR thing.

To get started, you'll have to sign up for the beta on the CatFi website. From there you'll get instructions on how to cut and fold the cardboard, plus links to download the beta versions of the apps. Load the camera-version of the app (dubbed Cam-Phone) to your Android phone, and set it up so that the camera is facing the food bowl. You also don't technically even need the cardboard structure as it's just there to hold the phone -- as long as you've got the Android phone in a stationary position pointing at your kitty's feeding area, you're good to go.

A spokesperson tells us that the reason why the camera-side of the app needs to be on an Android phone, is because iPhones don't allow background video recording. The Android camera app will then transmit any activity about your cat's feeding to the cloud, which you can then track on an entirely separate app dubbed Control-Phone (this tracking app is available on both iOS and Android). This is the same app that's used in the CatFi Pro and lets you see at what times and how long your cats eat. The camera also records video of it so you can watch it happen to make sure little kitty is eating her food.

Of course, the CatFi Box doesn't have the same bells and whistles as the Pro version. It doesn't have a scale and it won't have a large reservoir of food and water to draw from. But hey, you can try making the CatFi Box work with automatic feeders or something like the Petzi Treat Cam. And while we laugh at the idea of needing a spare Android phone for it to work and the whole cardboard concept to begin with, it really does sound like a cheap and inexpensive way to track your cat's feeding habits to make sure it isn't suffering from any disorders. Unless, of course, your cat mistakes the cardboard box for, uh, something else entirely.

[Image credit: Lead image by the author; second two images by CatFi]

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