Tease your cat from work with Acer’s new pet-tracking Pawbo Plus cam

Wondering what Fido’s up to all day while you’re at work or away on a road trip? You’re not the only one. Previously, unless you had a fairly sophisticated home security system, you were out of luck in that regard — you had to recruit the services of human help like, say, the neighbor’s teenage kid to ensure your canine or feline wasn’t getting into things it shouldn’t. But Acer debuted an electronic alternative this morning during its IFA press briefing in Berlin: the Pawbo Plus, an internet-connected camera designed for monitoring your pets.

Pawbo isn’t new, exactly. The Wi-Fi pet camera, the eponymous product of crowdfunded startup Pawbo, debuted to minor fanfare last year. But the new generation is the first the company’s produced as an Acer subsidiary — the Taiwanese firm acquired it earlier this year for an undisclosed sum — and appropriately packs hardware and software enhancements over last year’s model.

The first is in viewing angle: the Pawbo Plus features a wide-angle field of view up to 130 degrees (versus last year’s 110). The second is simultaneous streaming: Now, up to eight of your closest friends and relatives can join ongoing Pawbo video and share it with their respective social media networks. And finally, multiple Pawbo cameras now play nicely together — you can switch between feeds seamlessly.

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The Pawbo Plus, like last year’s model, is controlled entirely via a mobile Pawbo companion app for Android and iOS. It sports a microphone for two-way talking talking with your pet (a particularly handy feature if you’re a dog person), plus an automatic treat dispenser that lets you show your love from miles away. And it’s got a motorized laser point game that, as you might imagine, is great for frustrating the the heck out of kitties hopped up on catnip.

It joins a new family of Pawbo devices due out later this year. One’s the Pawbo Flash, an artificial lighting system for the camera. The second’s the playfully named Pawbo Munch, an additional treat dispenser you can place strategically near the Pawbo to, for example, distract your puppy from tearing at the new bedroom drapes. And rounding out the collection are two new toys: the Pawbo Catch, a “cat teaser” toy that frustrates your feline friend by whacking a plastic wand every which direction, and the Pawbo Punch, a “whack-a-mole” game for your cat, dog, or other any other domesticated quadruped that you call yours.

The new “Pawbo family” isn’t available for purchase just yet, but pre-orders for the Pawbo Plus went live early Wednesday. It’s $170, and expected to ship in November.

Acer’s quite bullish on the market for pet accessories. Company chief Jason Chen called it a $20 billion market opportunity for the Taiwanese company. “We all know that the pet population is growing,” he said. “In the U.S., the pet numbers are two times the baby numbers.”

But the pet-tracking camera competition’s surprisingly fierce: This month alone, both the PetChatz cam and Petzi Treat cam made their respective debuts. Acer’s clearly betting the new ecosystem of Pawbo accessories to help its pet-tracking camera a leg up, and, assuming they’re priced reasonably, it could very well be onto something.

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