March 30, 2023

The Rocki Robot Dispenses Treats and Livestreams Your Pets

Rocki only works while you’re controlling it via the app (available on iOS and Android). There’s no autonomous mode, so if you stop steering it, it stops moving. Sometimes that’s OK, like when I want to play with my cats without getting off the couch. But a big selling point for these types of robot toys is that you can check in on your pets when you’re at work. If you’re working, you can’t be glued to an app (or I can’t be, at least). For $250, I’d like to see an automatic setting available. (The Ebo can run automatically.)

Most cats are probably more interested in the tentacle laser on Rocki’s head than the actual device, but dogs may like to chase it, especially if it dispenses treats. You can bend the tentacle to face front, back, either side, or even straight up. You can also move it left to right by swiping your finger on the app screen, though the actual movement is a little jerky.

The company says the laser will be able to be switched out with other toys eventually, but as of publication, none are available. It would be nice to let your cats play with feathers or bells occasionally, as lasers should be limited—your cat might love to chase that little red dot, but it can increase the risk of accidental eye damage, and never catching it can be frustrating. Just make sure to play with them for real, with a toy they can sink their claws into.

Missed Connections

Medea Giordano via Rocki

The Rocki app could use some work. It’s slow and buggy. While my internet provider shoulders part of the blame, it’s not all Optimum’s fault. 

First, you have to connect it to the internet each time you open the app. This is annoying even when you have great internet, but my service provider also gives me problems with disconnecting and rebooting. I can’t say I’m surprised that it’s started to affect app-controlled products, but it was still frustrating and left Huxley staring at the Rocki hopefully, waiting for his friend to boot up. 

After I tried different networks, the connection process was easier. But even then, the app can be slow to load, and it disconnects frequently and has trouble connecting to the bot. I found myself exiting and reopening the app, or deleting it and redownloading it several times. Rocki Robot is new and the company’s only product, but the price tag is just too high to justify this type of customer experience, especially when you have to control it via the app. I expect some updates to roll out eventually.

And inviting Wi-Fi-enabled cameras into your home is a big concern. As many of us find security cameras useful, even the most reputable companies have been hacked or have security breaches. Unlike the Ebo, you can at least turn the Rocki off, but if you’re still concerned, you can keep it out of the bedroom or throw a blanket over the camera when you’re not using it. 

Watchful Eye 

Photograph: Rocki

As an anxious pet parent, a movable robot like this comes in handy. I can drive it around the couch or under the bed to find a cat that is usually sleeping peacefully just out of sight. But do animals really need something that costs this much? 

As I mentioned in our Ebo review, cats need more playtime and affection than you may have been led to believe. Yes, you can go away for a weekend, and they’ll probably be OK if they have food and water, but they miss us when we’re gone, and they get bored. Bored cats might destroy your house, overeat, fight with other pets, or groom themselves into a bald patch. If you can afford a $250 toy, your pet might really benefit from a robot like this. Huxley loves it and often waits for it to move even if I start the Ebo, so it’s clear he has a preference. 

But it still needs a lot of work. And given that it’s so new, there’s not a ton of stock yet—at the time of writing this, it’s only available through preorder (though it is discounted to $199). I can’t quite recommend it yet. If you’re an anxious pet parent, too, I still recommend getting a pet camera. For now, at least.

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