FluentPet Connect: The Next Generation of Pet Text Messages @ CES 2022 - Show Notes

FluentPet Connect: The Next Generation of Pet Text Messages @ CES 2022

Wednesday Mar 2, 2022 (00:14:21)


If you have a pet, you know that it can be difficult to understand what they want. Their vocal capabilities are limited and tend to just be whines and similar-sounding noises. But, as all pet owners know, these animals are still very smart. They understand what we are saying and are aware of different wants and needs. So, why can't we find a reliable way of communicating with our pets? FluentPet has a solution to this problem using small buttons and recorded voices.

What is FluentPet?

It's been a long journey, but we're finally here. FluentPet Connect is the next generation of pet communications, and it represents a huge leap forward in our quest to connect with animals in a deeper way. With FluentPet Connect, you can capture every push of a button and send high-fidelity audio directly to your pet's Base HexTile speaker. This allows you to customize your interactions with them however you like!

The compact design also means you can fit more buttons into a smaller space, and the sturdy construction discourages biting, as opposed to the foam used to construct the previous version. There are six installable sound buttons to choose from and it is your choice of what you would like each button to do. The possibilities do not end there.

How does this work?

The FluentPet Connect app uses a technology called Augmented Audio to send your voice commands directly to the Base HexTile. This allows you to keep your pet's attention focused on you while you're interacting with them, and it also means that you can use any words or sounds you like! There are six buttons provided per tile, and the newer design adds threading to the buttons to decrease the chance of them being removed by your pet so easily.

Wi-Fi capability has been added as well, and there are expansion devices that can be purchased in bundles. The expansion tiles would connect to the Base HexTile via Bluetooth, to avoid having endless numbers of devices connected to your home Wi-Fi connection. This is a simple and smart solution to be able to add more tiles, which would add any number of customizable buttons at your pet's disposal.


The original FluentPet is available now with starter kits priced at $29.95. The FluentPet Connect and Expansion HexTiles are aiming for a release date between Spring and Summer of this year. The Base HexTile is available for purchase on their website for $79.95 and the Expansion Tiles will retail for $49.95. There is also a pack of 3 Expansion HexTiles available for $119.95.

The FluentPet Connect app is a free download on the App Store and Google Play, and it is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. As of right now, pre-orders are available through their website. To learn more about the original FluentPet, the FluentPet Connect, or to pre-order one for yourself, head over to the company's website.

Interview by Scott Ertz of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Scott Ertz


Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.

Allante Sparks

Episode Author

Allante - also well known as Wolff - is the newest member and co-host for PLuGHiTz Live! Radio. A gifted artist, he is usually found drawing up a character or two or sketching up whatever comes to mind. Do not think that he is not a hardcore gamer because he is about as hardcore as it gets! His favorites range from fighting games to RPGs, adventure and even a racing game here and there. Fighting games are his forte and he relays this message for all who oppose: You mess with the Wolff and you get the fangs!

Xbox Live - Enigmatic Wolff

PSN - Tsukuyomi_Okami


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Erin Hurst (00:07)

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Scott Ertz (00:27)

I do see that Leo's here. So our next guest is here. Hello.

Leo Trottier (00:35)

Hi. How's it going?

Scott Ertz (00:36)

Fantastic. How are you?

Leo Trottier (00:38)

Good. Doing well.

Scott Ertz (00:39)

Go ahead and introduce yourself for me.

Leo Trottier (00:41)

Yeah. So I'm Leo Trottier. I'm the founder and CEO of a company called CleverPet, the makers of the FluentPet HexTiles System. So we make a system that helps people communicate with the animals in their lives. So you can, if you've got a dog or a cat, you can teach them to press buttons, and maybe ask you to go outside or for some food or some water.

Scott Ertz (01:08)

All right. Very interesting. So how does this work? Well, what is involved in this process?

Leo Trottier (01:15)

Yeah, so what we're doing is we're taking a, my background in cognitive science. So I did an undergrad degree in it. And then I was in the Ph.D. program in cognitive science at UCSD. And so the really cool realization was that back in actually the fall of 2019, this one woman, Christina Hunger, showed that she could take the techniques of speech-language pathology, in which she is teaching, say, young individuals, that like children who have trouble communicating, she teaches them to communicate by pressing buttons that have on them, word sounds. And so they can ask for what they want. She found that you could take those same techniques and apply them to teaching them to a dog and the dog would show a lot of the same markers of understanding and ability as the, as she was seeing in infants. And so this actually sparked a huge wave of really-. People who saw that she was what she was doing. And a lot of people who themselves were speech-language pathologists, or were early childhood educators, occupational therapists, so they already had experience with these devices, AAC devices, Augmentative and Assistive Communication devices. And thousands of people saw what she was doing now, the issue was, they were all using these improvised things. They were put together from parts at Home Depot. So then what we did was my background, you know, cognitive science, but then, prior to this, we had made a computer game console for dogs. And so we had some experience with making hardware for non-human animals. And so we took everything that we learned, and we said, hey, all these thousands of people like we can make something for you, that will make your lives a lot easier. And then the first thing we came up with was these kinds of HexTiles. This is a much loved HexTile. And this lets you organize the sound buttons in a way that is a, you know, a lot easier for, we think, for dogs to learn and keeps it from taking over your floor. It means that you don't have to buy plywood at the harbor store.

Scott Ertz (03:35)

Okay, I understand. So this is I think we've all seen the Facebook and Instagram videos of people who have basically reprogrammed Staples Easy Buttons.

Leo Trottier (03:47)


Scott Ertz (03:48)

And things like that.

Leo Trottier (03:49)


Scott Ertz (03:50)

This has taken that concept and made it into a safe configurable.

Leo Trottier (03:57)

Yeah, expandable. Yeah, and the thing is that so this does a bunch of things, right. So not only can you grow your board gradually by getting, adding puzzle pieces, one puzzle piece after the other. The other thing that it really lets you do is to organize words so that you can have particular word categories, like subjects, so if you know humans that are around or maybe other dogs that would be in the subject HexTile, and then you could have their toys would be in the object HexTile. Locations would be in his own HexTile. Greeting words like social words like Hello, those would be all in their own HexTile. So that provides potentially a cue to learners as we call them.

Scott Ertz (04:43)


Leo Trottier (04:44)

As to what the word category is. And then it also, the other great thing that it does is it might help them remember where the words are.

Scott Ertz (04:55)

Right? Because one of the things that most animals are good at is geography. They can remember placements of things.

Leo Trottier (05:03)

That's true. Yeah, spatial memory.

Scott Ertz (05:05)


Leo Trottier (05:05)

It is usually quite good. Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Scott Ertz (05:08)

Okay, that makes sense. So, you know, you start to associate this particular, you know, geographical area in the house with locations, or socializing and things like that. That makes sense to me.

Leo Trottier (05:21)

Exactly. Now, what people will do is they'll bring all those buttons together into a single-, into a large board. And we have Alexis has their dog Bunny, who's quite famous with over 7 million followers on Tiktok. I think Alexis and her dog Bunny has, I think over 90, maybe even as many as 100 buttons that Bunny uses in very entertaining ways. The latest thing that Bunny is talking about is her like things that have let go into her belly. And she's using it in a way that seems to suggest that eating so you know, she had previously said, you know, bird belly go after bark looking at a bird and barking at the bird, but her belly go, which was crazy in its own right. And then, and then she was like, around Christmas, I think they'd given her some turkey. And she also said something about bird belly, wanting more of it, which is insane. I mean, like that if the fact that the dog would recognize the taste of turkey. I mean, right. Maybe she was told that it was a bird, who knows?

Scott Ertz (06:23)

Could be.

Leo Trottier (06:23)


Scott Ertz (06:25)

Wow, that is all really fascinating. How, where are we in this? Is this product out in the wild now?

Leo Trottier (06:33)


Scott Ertz (06:34)

Can I have one yesterday?

Leo Trottier (06:35)

Yeah, so the FluidPet Connect, the FluentPet HexTile System, I should say these things. There, there's a set of HexTiles buttons, we also have a community of people that you can join to learn how to do this better, and troubleshoot and develop your skills with. That is currently available. We've been on the market actually, since June of 2020 with these things. And they're quite simple. I mean, these are just little sound buttons.

Scott Ertz (07:09)


Leo Trottier (07:10)

Right, that you can-. Let's see if I can do this properly here. You can, basically you just, they just, you just push them in, they just press fit as they say. And it's, we've sold many of them, we've got over 50,000 customers who have purchased these and are kind of joining us in this, you know, discovering what it is that dogs and cats can do. But the reason why I think we're talking is we've actually we're coming out with a connected device, which kind of likes to see you get a text message from your dog. And that's like the really cool thing. So, you know, it's not just the sound that they're transmitting. You might also be able to get like a push notification that says, you know, play outside.

Scott Ertz (08:04)

Wow, that's okay, that definitely takes it to a whole different level there.

Leo Trottier (08:11)

Yeah, yeah. So and we, you know, we've taken the liberty of improving the sound quality, so.

Scott Ertz (08:15)


Leo Trottier (08:16)

How about this, "Outside."

Scott Ertz (08:18)


Leo Trottier (08:19)

Yeah, much better sound quality. And it's like, you know, very durable plastic here. So it's hard to, it's not like the fan of foam pads that we had before. These buttons, you know, they look, they're totally actually removable, but they're a lot harder. You have to actually, you know, twist them. So they're not as easy for dogs to do.

Scott Ertz (08:40)


Leo Trottier (08:41)

Unintentionally removed.

Scott Ertz (08:43)

They're threaded in there in some way.

Leo Trottier (08:45)

Exactly. And you can and this, well, this accommodates up to like six of those buttons. And so each of these uses like a Wi-Fi connection, but it also connects via Bluetooth to any other kind of expansion tiles. So, you know, for Bunny who has over like maybe 100 buttons. There are these expansion HexTiles. They have a Bluetooth connection, so they don't have a speaker. But you can add them or use them to add to your hex to your soundboard and press buttons and you know, have you know hundreds of buttons without having to spend the price of a thing that has a Wi Fi connection and have you know, a dozen Wi Fi connected devices in your house that you didn't have before. So

Scott Ertz (09:31)


Leo Trottier (09:32)

Makes it more affordable. It just runs on AA batteries for months we think.

Scott Ertz (09:36)

Okay, that's really cool. So what kind of price point are we looking at on these guys?

Leo Trottier (09:41)

So for the base, we call this a Base HexTile, a Base Blueback Connect HexTile. These are running $79.95 and the Expansion HexTiles on their own will be $49.95 You can get them in kits of three. So you can get three of the expansions. Spending these Expansion HexTiles for $119.95. And then you can get a kit of one base plus two expansion HexTiles for $129.95. Currently they're not. These will likely be shipping spring summer this year. So right now you can kind of place a reservation on our website, just fluent.pet/connect.

Scott Ertz (10:23)

Very cool. I love this. It is fascinating. Yeah, take on the because seriously all the ones that I saw were people reprogramming Staples Easy Buttons, which is an interesting reuse of those things. But it requires a lot of knowledge on reprogramming and the internals electronics and stuff.

Leo Trottier (10:50)

Sure, yeah.

Scott Ertz (10:50)

This is a great way for, you know, not just myself, but my mother to be able to use something to do this without having to, you know, learn soldering and chipsets, and things.

Leo Trottier (11:04)

Yeah, I mean, these, we think we've made it a lot easier to get started. I mean, we have really comprehensive guidance that we've built. The way we really where this thing came from, was we, you know, I posted onto one of the forums, I said, Hey, you know, I'd like to make your lives easier by making some custom hardware for you. And so we started meeting with these groups of people who were really far advanced in the span of a few months they had gotten their learners. It is what we call them up to, you know, often more than a dozen buttons that they were using on a semi consistent basis. So what we did is we said to these, a few dozen people, we said, hey, what tips or tricks do you have for people who are just getting started? What worked for you? What didn't? What kind of practical know how can you share with us? And what we did, we consolidated all of that. We put it into a website, called the theycantalk.org. And people could go there and they could see, you know, what were? How should they start? Which would be some good first words? Which would be some good subsequent words? What are some do's and don'ts? What about, what are do's and don'ts for particular words?You know, it's often quite hard for people to learn to teach kind of more abstract concepts, you know, water, food outside, that's, you know, fairly straightforward, but.

Scott Ertz (12:33)


Leo Trottier (12:33)

People are trying to teach things like "Love you." One of the first abstract concepts that is often taught is like all done, which means no more playtime. So, all of those kinds of, that kind of know how, those kinds of tips we consolidated them together. And that's that's really helped us you know, grow the community and bring this to market a lot more quickly.

Scott Ertz (12:56)

Very cool. Well, I'm truly fascinated. I cannot wait to see this new generation out on the market. You said it once but for those who want more information, how can I get it?

Leo Trottier (13:09)

Yeah, go to fluent.pet. Like I'm fluent in Spanish. fluent.pet/connect.

Scott Ertz (13:17)

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for coming on and talking about this. I know for a fact the audience is gonna flip for this stuff. It's the perfect combination of like, home and maker, like, you know, it's right in that sweet spot. So

Leo Trottier (13:36)

Totally, totally. It's been great chatting with you.

Scott Ertz (13:38)

Right back. Gotcha. Have a good night.

Leo Trottier (13:41)

Take care.

Erin Hurst (13:44)

TPN CES 2022 coverage is executive produced by Michele Mendez. Technical Directors are Kurt Corless and Adam Barker. Associate producers are Nancy Ertz and Maurice McCoy. Interviews are edited by Jo Mini. Hosts are Marlo Anderson, Todd Cochrane, Scott Ertz, Christopher Jordan, Daniele Mendez, and Allante Sparks. Las Vegas studio provided by HC Productions. Remote studio provided by PLUGHITZ Productions. This has been Tech Podcasts Network Production, copyright 2022.

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