Have you ever been on vacation, feeling homesick, and wanted, more than anything, to see your pet? Royce Hong, CEO of the electronics company IPEVO, has. While traveling, Royce found himself missing his bulldog, Roy. That’s when inspiration struck. Royce designed the IPEVO PoV USB web camera so that he could continue to interact with Roy while away from home. Roy, a four-year-old English Bulldog, is seen below in a photo taken with the PoV web camera:
I’ve got a brand new PoV camera on my laptop, and I’m looking forward to using the remote monitor function to check in on my Corgi mix, Augustin, and my cat, Monster, while I’m at work. I suspect that Monster spends all day sleeping, and Augustin goes straight for couch (off limits when I’m at home) the minute I leave the house! I’ll also be using the PoV to take pictures of the products I’m reviewing for my new regular feature, PetLvr Reviews. Look for a new review every week!
A more detailed review of the PoV follows. First, Royce Hong answered some questions for PetLvr about IPEVO, his bulldog Roy, and taking an invention from great idea to marketable product.
Interview with Royce Hong, IPEVO CEO
PetLvr: Tell me about how your love for your bulldog led you to invent the IPEVO PoV USB Webcam.
Royce: “My wife, Grace, and I have a four year old English Bulldog named Roy. When I was away on business trips, I would call home using Skype or Windows Live Messenger with their live video conferencing functions. It turns out that what I wanted to see most while I was on the road was what Roy is up to. As almost all webcams are either built into the laptop or designed to sit on top of the computer’s monitor to capture the “talking head” image of the person that you’re speaking with, My wife usually ended up holding up her laptop while trying to point it at Roy (luckily he’s quite lazy and doesn’t really move around too much).
“My company, IPEVO, designs and produces devices that help people enhance their communication and share their experience over the Internet. We were looking into building a new webcam and we looked into the fundamental behavior of video conferencing. From my own experience from my video calls with Grace and Roy, we came to realize that what people want to share during video calls may not just be images of themselves, but their ‘point of view’ as well.
“Hence, we designed the IPEVO PoV USB “Pointer” Cam, that incorporates this ‘See What I See’ concept. It can be easily detached from its base on top of the computer, and its pen-shaped design makes it an intuitive handheld pointing device. We’ve also built in a macro-focus ring for up to 1.5-inch close-up shots, and a big snap-shot button to take quick pictures and instantly share them with others via instant message or email.”
PetLvr: What were the first steps you took to turn your idea into a marketable product?
Royce: “The first step in a product’s development is usually a proof of concept. Our design teams built dozens of working mock-ups of different shapes and sizes for the IPEVO team to take on the road to try out. We also talked to a diverse group of people with different needs to communicate over the Internet, including a lot of pet parents. You couldn’t imagine how many creative ways people have come up with to use the PoV.”
PetLvr: What advice would you give a fellow pet parent to improve their life with their pets using the PoV camera?
Royce: “My wife and I usually take turns bringing Roy to work, either to her architecture design studio, or to IPEVO’s office. We’ve set up a computer at each office with a Skype account and IPEVO’s PoV and speakerphone products. We can call into the Skype account remotely and turn on the video and conferencing option remotely with a password, so we can see what Roy is doing (usually sleeping), and interact with him via voice at anytime.”
PetLvr: As a busy executive with a full schedule, what are some ways you make time to spend giving attention, training, and exercise to your dog?
Royce: “When Roy was about one year-old, we signed up for courses at an nonprofit organization called DoctorDog here in Taiwan (http://www.doctordog.org.tw/) – they help dog owners train their dogs to become certified as therapy dogs, so they can go on visits to orphanages, hospitals and homes for the elderly, etc.
“We think that was the best thing we ever did for Roy– we not only picked up proper training techniques, it also helped us develop a very close bond with him. Roy really enjoys hanging out with a lot of other dogs and all sorts of people as well.”
PetLvr: What’s the funniest or most unique thing you’ve caught your dog doing while watching him with the IPEVO PoV USB Webcam while you’re away from home?
Royce: “Besides taking various close up shots of Roy as he snores away, the funniest thing I’ve tried was actually attaching the PoV cam onto his collar, and from there we were able to see our dog’s point of view of the world. It turned out that we saw a lot of shots of people’s feet and lower part of their body…. definitely a whole new perspective on how the dog sees the world!”
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without one of those photos of Roy as he snores away, taken with the PoV web camera:
Review of the IPEVO PoV USB web camera:
Value: At $39.99 (MSRP), the PoV won’t break the bank, and its added functionality makes it a good buy for the average web user when compared to similar products that lack the macro capability and can’t be moved from the top of your monitor.
Picture Quality: As seen above, the PoV’s picture quality is comparable to low-end digital cameras and high-end cell phone cameras. It features a manual focus ring that can focus down to 1.5″ from the subject. As a rat owner, the macro functionality is useful to me. I can certainly imagine needing to quickly photograph a rat’s injury and send it to a rat-owning friend for advice, and being able to zoom in on a tiny torn toenail or a torn ear is quite handy. The PoV’s maximum resolution is 640 x 480, which is comparable to most competing products. Like most web cameras, the PoV does not depict true color well in low light and artificial light, and human skin comes across with the washed-out color typical of teenagers’ MySpace profile photos. However, in daylight, the PoV easily outperforms most similar devices in terms of both overall picture quality and quality of color.
Ease of Use: I’m no tech genius, but I had the PoV’s drivers installed and the camera functioning within five minutes of removing it from the box. Using it with Skype or using the remote monitor function takes a little more user savvy or a quick read through the instruction manual, but overall, the PoV proved very easy to use. I took my first picture about six minutes after opening the box:
For Pet Parents: The remote monitor function, as well as the ability to remove the camera from the monitor and point it right at a pet to capture a cute moment, make this a good buy for pet parents, especially those of us (guilty as charged) with entire online photo sharing albums full of cute snapshots of our animals. And, with the addition of a Skype handset (IPEVO makes a couple of those, too), you can even scold the dog remotely if you catch him chewing your new shoes! It’s not a “pet product,” per se, but most pet parents will find many uses for this handy little gadget. Plus, if you happen to be (like me) the pet-loving partner of a gadget-loving nerd, you can get it for the nerd in the family and earn some Brownie points, then snag the PoV to take pictures of your dog’s tummy the first chance you get. I’m just sayin’… it’s what I’d do, if I didn’t already tell him I was reviewing it for PetLvr.