Games and Science
CleverPet was started to let everyone take advantage of the latest advances in the cognitive sciences in our interactions with our favorite animals.
With the CleverPet Hub, we have made it possible to deliver a whole series of challenges to your dog (or cat!) in a way that is never too difficult or too easy, and which adapts over time. This way, the Hub can stay engaging for not just a few hours, but for weeks, months, and even years.
How Does It Work? The Basics of Learning
Positive reinforcement learning, which is the primary kind of learning that occurs with CleverPet, happens when an animal receives a reward or otherwise experiences something pleasurable after performing an action. When a dog, cat, or any animal is rewarded for taking an action, they are more likely to perform that action again. With CleverPet, we use your pet's normal daily food as their reward.
What is going on at the time moment the reward occurs matters. In other words, learning depends on context. You can teach your dog that after you say “sit” he should sit, and after you say “lie down” he should lie down, and you don’t reward sitting or lying down done at just random times. In the same way, with CleverPet your dog can learn to respond to its lights by touching them only when the lights are on. If they touch them with the lights are off, they don’t get a reward.
The Starting Sequence
To begin with, your dog will go through four phases as he or she becomes more familiar with the Hub, and CleverPet’s software has a series of carefully designed challenges that serve to guide your dog through this process. At first, your dog gets comfortable with the Hub, then they get curious, then they start touching the touch pads, and then they start seeing the lights. Each challenge stretches your dog’s engagement with the Hub a little bit further, a process that can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of regular interaction. Fortunately, regardless of how long it takes, your dog is still getting the benefits of mental stimulation and environmental enrichment.
The Benefits of Environmental Enrichment
Numerous scientific studies have found improvements to animal psychology, health, lifespan, and overall behavior when their daily lives are enriched through varied activities and new experiences. This is why walking your dog is important: your dog needs the stimulation and physical activity that is the result of being outdoors, experiencing new things, moving around, sniffing their world, and changing their context. Enrichment has been found to have positive effects on an animal's behavior, on their health and wellbeing, on on their cognition more generally. It’s even possible to see the effects of environmental enrichment in the animals’ brains themselves: a stimulating environment leads to visible structural changes in neural organization.
The CleverPet Hub is constantly improving and adapting the challenges it presents your dog. The basic introductory sequence we have developed, though, proceeds as follows:
- Eating the food
- Exploring the touchpads
- Engaging consistently
- Avoiding Unlit Touchpads
- Learning the Lights
- Mastering the Lights
- Responding Quickly
- Learning Brightness
In Eating the Food you are using the Hub to get your dog comfortable with eating from it. It gives away kibble “for free” and then checks to see if your pup at it. Some dogs will engage instantly, but others can take more time getting comforable with the Hub.
In Exploring the Touchpads you are using the Hub to teach our dog to get curious. Your dog completes it when he or she has demonstrated the ability to touch the touchpads.
Engaging Consistently lets you push your dog a bit further. No more free kibble! Now, to get some kibble, your dog has to touch a touchpad.
In Avoiding Unlit Touchpads you are teaching your dog to begin to pay attention to whether touchpads are illuminated or not. They start off just touching the touchpads, but gradually they see that things go better when they touch touchpads that are lit up!
In Learning the Lights you make things more stringent for your pup, and they are only given one touchpad to touch at a time. They have to get it right before they can move on!
In Mastering the Lights things become more stringent still, and your dog needs to quite consistently recognize which touchpad he or she should make contact with.
Your dog will learn even more advanced light targeting skills with Responding Quickly and Learning Brightness.
Based on feedback from you, and progress data that we receive from individual dogs, we are continuously enhancing the set of challenges. We are also developing new ones. As we’re developing new challenges, we often test them with a small set of pups — if you have a Hub and would like to be one of our new challenge testers, please let us know!