Microsoft AI and Pets


Helping dogs stay mental stimulated while their owners are away during the day.


I conducted initial research, worked on the design of Sherlock and Watson, CAD, rendering, and story.


  • Nate Chang


Most dogs are under stimulated, meaning that they’re often bored or sleeping. That’s a bad thing — dogs aren’t meant to be sleeping all day. They have natural skills they want to develop: using their ears, eyes, and noses to hunt for food.

In a Microsoft-sponsored studio class, we designed AI-powered devices that keep dogs stimulated throughout the day and help develop their skills by having them hunt for food.

The products

Sherlock and Watson devices use lights, sounds, and smells, to create a game for dogs to play. Dogs become little detectives and chase down these stimulants, in the process, exploring the home and finding patterns to earn food.

Sherlock (the big one), used as the hub for all devices, able to dispense food, play sounds, release scents, and blink lights.

Watson (the small one), the budget option perfect for placing multiple around the home, fully-featured except for food dispensal.

A game for dogs

Dogs chase down each stimulant, receiving food as a reward at the end. This emulates hunting in the wild, serving their desires to investigate and use their noses, eyes, and ears.

Dog toys are always the same. We didn’t want something that would get boring after a week, instead, machine learning ensures that the game is always different and adapting to be just the right amount of challenging.

Design details

Never gets old

Research Insight:
Dogs need unpredictability, otherwise, their days are exactly the same and their brains remain unused. The problem is, their owners have to work, and the best they can do is leave behind toys. However, the toys are always the same, and after a few days, dogs get bored.

Dogs are little detectives. They love identifying patterns. Each time they play the game, they are memorizing a pattern to get food. The beauty is, using basic machine learning, the pattern always changes, forcing dogs to find a new one (mental stimulation), which is very fun and gratifying for them.

No hassle

Research Insight:
It is difficult and time-consuming, especially during the morning rush, to fill up many feeding toys on a daily basis. For this reason, many pet owners end up abandoning feeding toys and going to back to filling up a bowl.

Filling up food was designed to be as easy and rare as possible. Food storage is a drawer that is pulled out and the owner can pour in a week’s worth of dog food.

Designed for the home

Research Insight:
Smart devices around the home attract a lot of attention, instead of blending in. Furniture, on the other hand, don’t feel alien. They feel like they belong.

Sherlock (the big one), along with stimulating dogs, is designed to be a small shelf. You can put magazine, mugs, and random clutter on it. And like furniture, it is versatile — working in both horizontal and vertical orientations.

Watson (the small one), a 3.5 inch cube, is unobtrusive by design. It fits and blends in anywhere, perfect for placing multiple around the house.


Trying out different dispensing mechanisms

Using foam core to create 1:1 scale prototypes

Joining acrylic using acrylic glue