Pseudonymous maker "NonCamelCase" has shown off a mechanical cat toy linked to a smart home system, which can be triggered with a simple command to Amazon's Alexa.
"Originally, the Alexa control had value because my cat when he was a kitten wanted to play at odd hours and he would wake me up," NonCamelCase explains. "I thought if I could just yell, 'Alexa, tell mouse house to play with the cat,' from my bed, it would distract the cat without me having to get up and kick him out of the room or play with him when I wanted to sleep."
"Unfortunately, it took me a long time to finish for various reasons, but he no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night. Maybe for some folks with super fat cats it could be a way to try to get their cats to exercise more."
The "mouse house" in question is powered by a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, which triggers a linear actuator to make the yarn "mouse" move in and out of its home. A Raspberry Pi Camera Module offers a mouse-eye view of the cat, to complete the build.
NonCamelCase already has ideas for improvement, including using cat recognition on the camera feed to trigger more realistic prey-like movements if the cat is in range and a speaker to play audio.
"I’ve tried playing clips of fly buzzes, plastic crumpling and what’s supposed to be mouse squeaky sounds," they note, "and the fly buzzing def gets his attention the most so far. I’ll give it a shot once I find a suitable speaker and after I add image recognition to cut down on false activations."
More details on the build are available in NonCamelCase's Reddit thread.