“Did you feed the dog?” or “Did I feed the dog?” is heard every day in my household. On 3/10/15 the dog started howling in pain that night. Nearly midnight, I called the all night vet. She quizzed me on a couple habits concerning the dog and discovered it was possible that we overfed him. The dry food, when moistened, expands in their belly which is next to the diaphragm. “He’s going to be uncomfortable” and “we get a lot of calls like this” is what she said.
There has got to be a better way.
So if this happened to us, maybe it happens to other people. And, why don’t we have the technology to fix it? I see a need and think about how to fix it. Calendar? No, Gregor won’t. Push a button? No, Gregor won’t. Push a bead on an abacus? No. Just no. There has got to be a better way. Only a completely unobtrusive approach will work. I wanted a way to know when food went into the bowl, and it had to happen automatically, without Gregor’s intervention. The answer is a SCALE. The scale measures the amount of food in the bowl to trigger a timestamp to tell us the last time food was in the bowl, answering the question “did you feed the dog?”.
The answer is a scale, and have it timestamp the last time food was in the dog bowl.
I researched the project for a month until I finally found an existing patent. I was so disappointed. I don’t know why, I just wanted the patent for my own idea. I stopped working on the project.
“… but did you feed the dog?”
Three months later I found myself still asking the same darn question. I decided I just need to do this to see if it betters our lives. I hired an Arduino board consultant, I purchased the parts, and put it all together. The circuitry went inside a Quaker Oats round cardboard can. Now ready for the first day of usability testing!
The first night it worked as expected, and the next morning it worked as expected. But on the second day it stopped working. When I checked on it the timestamp was a full day behind: Tuesday 7:22pm but it was Wednesday. I tripped the scale and the timestamp updated from Tues 7:22pm to Weds 7:22pm. I scratched my head and checked the time, and yes, it was exactly 7:22pm (funny odds).
I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog
So the scale is technically working. I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog. He tossed the dry food into the bowl just as I expected, but the scale read 277, and the program is waiting for 300. Bingo!
So I set the program to 200, uploaded it to the circuit board, and reinstalled the dog dish. Because it sits under the ironing board, I dropped a sock on it just to see if it would trigger. It did, even though the sock weighed less than 200. I had to power boot the dish again, but so far it has been working successfully.
Testing showed me something else
After about a month the dish so far is performing as expected, but I did not take into account the times the dog is put into his crate, and fed there. So sometimes he is not being fed out of the scale-dish. Oh well! Even though I believed I knew what my household’s needs are, this just goes to prove you never know what your users needs are until you go to testing. Even if the user is yourself.