No Match for My Fat, Lazy Cat Leave a comment


Illustration for article titled Not Even This Adorable Robot Could Get My Fat Cat to Exercise

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

My cat Pablo is fat. His fluffy tummy flops wildly from side to side when he runs, and he only runs to his food bowl. On the chart of chonky cats, he is most definitely a “megachonker” and a kibble binge or two away from graduating to “oh lawd he comin’.” I wake up most mornings to his tail smacking my face as he yowls because it’s been an unacceptable eight hours since his last meal. I don’t particularly care that he is a Big Boy so long as he’s relatively healthy. However, something had to be done after his last vet visit. Not only did he tip the scales at 19 pounds, the veterinarian called my husband to say, “We’re concerned. He’s far too young to be this fat.”

The high-fiber prescription diet food has not worked. We bought him a harness and leash for walks, but only managed to drag his prone body to the front door before the harness slid off, proving that cats are, in fact, liquid. The only form of exercise Pablo believes in is extreme napping. I write all this so you know the Enabot Ebo Pro did nothing wrong. The blame lies squarely on Pablo’s rotund shoulders.

The Cutest Robot in All the Land

The Ebo Pro is stupid cute. It’s a teeny, tennis ball-sized robot with pixelated eyes that express feeling. When you turn it on, it proudly says “EBO!” like it was a Pokémon. I’m pretty immune to cute stuff after a 7-year stint in Tokyo, a land of brain-breakingly cute things, but I’ll admit it: I squealed unboxing it. My review unit came with a secondary outfit, complete with reindeer ears and a Santa hat, which I can confirm is ridiculously adorable when you put it on the bot. It also comes with a two different “hats,one with a built-in laser pointer, and another to entice your kitty with silicone feather attachments.

Functionally, the Ebo Pro is a chimera made of a pet cam, robot vacuum, and cat toy. It has a 1080p camera that you can view through the companion app, and the Pro model also features AI that’s capable of recognizing your pets and family members. It can also auto-record videos. You can choose to either actively drive the robot through the app, or schedule it with various pre-set modes to play with your pet at a certain time or day of the week. When it runs low on battery, it’ll automatically return to its charging dock. And, like most self-navigating robots, it also features collision sensors.

Setup is fast and painless—you just download the Ebo app, create an account, and have the Ebo Pro scan a generated QR code. After that, it took about two hours for it to charge up to full, and then I was ready to torture—er, play—with Pablo.

Pablo prefers to just sit and stare at the Ebo Pro from a lofty perch.

Pablo prefers to just sit and stare at the Ebo Pro from a lofty perch.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

How It Works

Manually driving the Ebo Pro takes some getting used to, and I never got great at it. That just might be me, however. The camera feed helps you navigate, though the Ebo Pro is a wobbly bot. It’s not the worst thing, but sometimes when you’re chasing a pet under some furniture, you won’t get the smoothest video. This is exacerbated when you’re doing this away from home on spotty LTE, but I find that’s true of any pet camera. There are also a few buttons you can press to help the Ebo Pro interact with your cat. For instance, you can press a dash button to make it dart forward, while another makes Ebo pretend to play dead. Each action triggers another very cute “EBO!”, which Pablo has not once appreciated.

Frankly, Pablo was not a fan of me manually driving the Ebo Pro. Every time I drove the bot up to him, he’d give it a cool stare that said, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” If I bumped into him too many times, he’d jump up onto a surface where Ebo could not follow. Just when I think Pablo is actually a glorified couch cushion, he does prove that he is a cat. Case in point, he’s bananas for laser pointers. However, he’s a fancy boy and only likes laser pointers if you flick it back and forth in a specific pattern. It wasn’t easy to manipulate the laser like this in manual mode unless I hit the button that makes the Ebo Pro spin in a circle. Pablo was unamused, and unmotivated to do anything other than stare into the camera like he was in an episode of The Office. This was disappointing, as he lost his shit when I reviewed the PetCube Play 2, which also has a built-in laser.

I thought I’d try enticing him by sticking the silicone feather onto the Ebo Pro’s head. Pablo loves his feathers, even if he can only chase them for a few seconds before it’s nap time again. I definitely caught him eyeing the feather, but again, he couldn’t be bothered to interact unless the bot was motionless on its charging dock.

Part Robot, Part Pet Cam

Even though Pablo wasn’t keen, I liked that this could work as a supplementary pet cam for when we’re away from home. The problem with regular pet cams is they’re fixed in a single spot, while your pets are free to wander. With the Ebo Pro, I can follow them around. As with other pet cams, you can also talk to your pets and record video. If a regular pet cam is a security camera, the Ebo Pro feels more like a robot camcorder. The auto-record function initially gave me the heebie jeebies, but I was pleasantly surprised that Ebo Pro doesn’t store any video in the cloud. You can only live stream, which you have to manually start, or watch saved videos on your phone. Another plus is because you don’t need to store data on the cloud, there’s no extra subscription fee.

Another feature I liked that Pablo hated was the auto-tracking. I was impressed at how well the Ebo Pro was able to recognize faces and move toward them without me having to drive the bot. (Side note: When Ebo recognizes a face, it rushes forward with heart eyes and, c’mon, how cute is that?) It meant I didn’t have to use my two remaining brain cells to figure out how to follow the cat. Again, Pablo was not having my bullshit. Whenever he’d had enough, he’d lead the Ebo Pro to my dog Daisy. While the Ebo Pro can recognize faces, it’s not so great at distinguishing between a cat and a dog (or human). This asshole just handed off the Ebo Pro to Daisy and said, “Your problem now.” Daisy’s reaction was to sniff the Ebo Pro and then nap harder. (Daisy also objects to any attempts at doggie fitness.)

After all my frustration in manual mode, I had more “success” with the Ebo Pro’s automated modes and scheduling. So long as the laser pointer was enabled Pablo would sometimes half-heartedly chase the laser for 10 minutes. Actually, “chase” is being generous. He sat there, stared at the laser on the ground for a few minutes, and once or twice, batted at it with his paw. Not quite enough to count as “exercise,as he still preferred to spend most of the hunt lying down. Whatever, I’ll take it. With Pablo, any engagement is good engagement.

This picture pretty much sums it up.

This picture pretty much sums it up.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Again, I have to stress the Ebo Pro did nothing wrong. It self-docks better than any robot vacuum I’ve ever tested—including the ones that cost several hundreds of dollars. It also wiggles its butt while backing into the dock, before letting out a celebratory “EBO!” when it succeeds. I can’t say how the Ebo Pro handles carpeting, as my floors are all hardwood, but I had zero issues with its ability to navigate around chair legs and other furniture. The collision sensors are also impressive. Even though the Ebo Pro definitely knocked into a few doors, it did so gently. (Once, a Roomba bulldozed and chipped the wood of my dining room chair, so never underestimate the damage a self-navigating robot can inflict.)

Look at this smug jerk. You win this time, asshole.

Look at this smug jerk. You win this time, asshole.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

No Match for a Lazy Cat

So no, Pablo does not love the Ebo Pro, though I do think he’s curious about it. Sometimes I catch him sniffing it or eyeing it warily as he walks past its dock. I can tell you what new toy he does love: empty laundry hampers. Every laundry day, this little shit discovers his inner rabbit and leaps in and out of them with abandon while rubbing his cat hair all over my freshly clean clothes. A highly sophisticated $299 robot? Pfft. No. An old, falling apart laundry hamper that he’s seen several hundred times before but is suddenly enamored with? Hell yeah.

This is the risk every cat owner is all too familiar with. Personally, $299 is too pricy for me, considering Pablo is lazy as hell and prefers guarding his water bowl from Daisy to playtime. However, if you have a cat that does like to play and are thinking of getting a decent pet cam, the Ebo Pro is a good option. It’s only about $100 more than higher-end interactive pet cams, but offers superior interactivity and stores an unlimited number of videos on your phone without a monthly subscription. To me, that’s a fair trade-off if you’re reasonably certain your cat (or dog) will enjoy playing with the Ebo Pro. Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards for me—even though I wish it was.

Pablo is sitting on our daybed as I write this review, smugly licking his paws because he’s fully aware that he’s won this battle. Enjoy it while you can, buddy. Mama’s got 10 tabs open on high-tech cat treadmills, so we’ll see who gets the last laugh.





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