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Video cat chat? Minnesota company lets pet owners connect from afar

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Two new innovations created in Minnesota will use technology to strengthen family connections – for pets and their owners, and for parents and their children.

The Business Journal reports that Burnsville-based Anser Innovation will start selling "PetChatz" this spring. The electronic device uses cameras to let owners and pets see each other from afar and do a form of video chatting.

The Brits appear to truly fancy the new device, called the first videophone for pets. Both London's Daily Mirror and the Express carried lengthy stories (dare we call them – Puff pieces?) about what the Daily Mirror called "the American invention." The story lets readers know that if pet owners are "on holiday on the other side of the world, you can see Fido or Tibbles and he, or she, can see you." ('Tibbles?' Right-o!)

The story goes on to explain that pet owners who are away can "seal the bond" with their animal by remotely releasing treats and even scents. The device is "...fitted to a wall at the pet’s eye level and uses the Internet to bring it and owner together via a laptop, tablet or smartphone." The device comes complete with sound and motion detectors to tell the owner when the pet is near. Consumers can pre-order the device for $349, or, as the Daily Mirror puts it, £255.

TwinCitiesBusiness has the story of FamDoo, a new mobile app that assists parents in doling out rewards to kids who do their chores or homework. Mark Lacek, CEO and co-founder of the Minneapolis-based tech startup firm that created the system, is described as a serial entrepreneur who founded or co-founded seven companies.

Billed as “The Modern Allowance," the FamDoo app allows kids to earn points for meeting their responsibilities. Parents purchase FamDoo points using their credit card on a pay-as-you-go basis. Kids earn points for completing tasks, and then they can redeem the points to purchase items at retailers like Target, Best Buy, iTunes or Amazon. They can also save points or donate them to national charities.

One point is equal to 1 cent and for each block of 1,000 points that a parent purchases for $10, FamDoo charges a $2 service fee.

The app is ad-free, requires no monthly subscription fees, and is currently available for free as a mobile app for iOS at the iTunes app store. It will also soon be available for Android devices.

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