The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer

Posted on September 14, 2007  Comments (20)

photo by Binky the cat or another catThis article is the result of the first Curious Cat engineer interview. My favorite post detailed the great engineering project Jürgen Perthold undertook to engineer a camera that his cat could wear and take photos. So I decided to interview him.

The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer by John Hunter:

This time I thought about our cat who is the whole day out, returning sometimes hungry sometimes not, sometimes with traces of fights, sometimes he stay also the night out. When he finally returns, I wonder where he was and what he did during his day. This brought me to the idea to equip the cat with a camera. The plan was to put a little camera around his neck which takes every few minutes a picture. After he is returning, the camera would show his day.

The Amazing CatCam is not only a great product but a wonderful engineering story. See our past post for some background on how an engineer allowed you to help your cat become a photographer. On the development of the CatCam Jürgen Perthold says, “More or less it was just a joke, born with a crazy idea.” Such a great sentiment and with wonderful results.

What path led him to the desire and ability to pursue the crazy idea and become the Curious Cat engineer of the year? He was born in Aalen, Germany. He started playing with electronics as he was 13. At 15 he added computer programming and with a friend they programmed games, applications and hardware control over the years. He studied Optoelectronics at the University of Aalen, Germany extending his knowledge further.

For the last few years he has worked for Bosch, an international manufacturing company, in the automotive hardware section. Last summer, he transfered from Germany to Anderson, South Carolina as a resident engineer for transmission control unit in a production plant for automobile parts. On a side note, the United States is still by far the largest manufacturer in the world.
photo by Binkey the cat, from under a car
The demand for the cameras is still higher than his capability to produce the cameras. He has raised the price, to limit the demand. When I first saw the prices I couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was. And, in my opinion, they are still a incredible deal. Order your CatCam now: it is a great gadget for yourself or it makes a great unique, gift. Most orders have been from the UK, Germany and the USA.

Most people don’t have technical background so they buy the full unit. But he reports that some brave souls order a kit because of price or availability although they have not done anything similar before. What a great way to challenge yourself and, if you succeed, end up with a wonderful creation when you finish.

He is in discussion with several different groups to ramp up production. The main problem is that producing the device requires electronics, optics, software, mechanics and logistics expertise. So, for the time being, he continues to modify the cameras by hand because no investments are necessary and the production can be scaled according to the demand. The required soldering, electronics and system knowledge makes it a challenge to outsource. So, for now, CatCam production is adding to the USA manufacturing output total. He is also planning to produce more products.
photo of Jacquie the cat wearing a CatCam
Jürgen believes that getting the cat camera working was not that challenging. You can take a look at his explanation of how he did so to decide for yourself. He does admit that challenges do arise if you want to produce cameras for others. To do that you must create a product that is foolproof, reliable, and easy to use and manufacture.

“I was surprised how famous one can get with ‘boring’ technical engineering stuff. I like this not only for me but for all other engineers out there who daily work hard on challenges which others don’t even understand. We as engineers make the world moving but usually we are not recognized.” Everyone enjoys the products of the labors of engineers (such as cell phones, MP3 players, cars, planes, bridges, internet connections) but few see the required knowledge, work and the people that bring those products into being.
photo by Jacquie the cat of a vine
Jürgen “hopes that I made ‘engineering’ a bit more visible to people who did not think about it before, for example, female cat owners who never had a solder iron in the hand and bought plain SOIC chips because they wanted the cat camera…”

I think he has done a great job illustrating the engineering behind the CatCam and making engineering fun. And in so doing hopefully is making more people aware of the engineers that make so many wonderful modern gadgets. Go buy a CatCam now (and if you are adventurous buy the parts and create your own – you will learn a lot about what makes all your modern gadgets work). And then send in the pictures your cat takes so everyone can see the wonderful things engineers make possible.

The photos here show the results of several new cat photographers (Binky the cat [first 2 photos] and Jacquie the cat [last 2]). Only a small percentage of CatCam owners have shared there pictures so far.

Over the next few years he would like to learn to sail, visit Yellowstone national park, walk the Camino de Santiago again, move on to other international assignment (maybe far east) and continuing raising his two children.

The Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog is written by John Hunter and tracks a wide variety of developments, happenings, interesting under-publicized facts, and cool aspects of science and engineering.

20 Responses to “The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer”

  1. CuriousCat: Automatic Cat Camera
    September 14th, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    This is my favorite home engineering project. The concept is great. The explanation of the technology is great. The adjustment to real life situations is great. The end result (the photos) is great…

  2. xm carreira
    September 17th, 2007 @ 3:12 am

    This is real engineering in action. Thanks for the good laughs.

  3. Ivan
    September 18th, 2007 @ 9:37 am

    It really a funny and interesting project! :) I’ll write about this article in my blog, maybe a new section. Thanks for your post, it’s an interesting “case study” :)

  4. Daniele Cultrera
    September 19th, 2007 @ 7:48 pm

    This Is the best and funny project that I’ve ever seen!!! GodJob

  5. Martin
    September 20th, 2007 @ 3:43 am

    fascinating article, i would LOVE to attach this to my cat to see all the mischief he gets up to!!!

  6. Shannon
    September 20th, 2007 @ 4:18 am

    COOL! Where did you bought the camera? how did you do it?

  7. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Practice First, Theory Later
    October 29th, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

    Olin was designed to make students plunge into hands-on engineering projects on day one. “Instead of theory-heavy lectures, segregated disciplines, and individual efforts,” I wrote in that article, “Olin champions design exercises, interdisciplinary studies, and teamwork.”

  8. CuriousCat: The Wonderful Life of a Cat
    November 13th, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

    The next morning, the 12-year-old cat can always be found in exactly the same place, on a pavement about one and a half miles (2.4km) away waiting to be driven home.

  9. CuriousCat: Cool Crow Research
    November 17th, 2007 @ 11:24 am

    “Initially we’re training them to deposit dropped coins they find on the ground in exchange for peanuts…”

  10. Paulo
    November 20th, 2007 @ 3:56 am

    Hey… would be ok use it on my dog?
    I am a photographer and I have a Lab that I is famous for his Greeting Cards, but I would love to put a camera on him and maybe upload on my blog.
    What do you think?

  11. Darlene Norris
    December 14th, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

    What an amazing invention. I would love to see the world from a cat’s viewpoint–down low and underneath stuff, but also from the treetops. I’m impressed that he came up with this idea and figured out how to do it.

  12. Joe
    January 27th, 2008 @ 12:36 am

    amg I love this ) Now I can how many suga mamas my kittys has. Im sure he eats at 2-3 houses while Im off working.

  13. Joe
    February 3rd, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

    Wow that is very interesting. I wish I could have a video camera for my cat. I’ve always wondered what he does during the day while I am at work. I wonder if he ever gets into fights with other cats (or other animals), finds some good looking lady cats, or if he just bums around all day. Basically, I would just like to be able to see his life through “his eyes”.

  14. Christine
    March 18th, 2008 @ 11:05 am

    Here’s a website devoted to the result of some catcam pictures using a Mr. Lee camera.
    http://www.katz23.de/fritzcam.htm

    I like this blog, BTW: like cats (live with three), try to follow developments in the sciences, and applaud critical thinking, even though I’m (gasp) a lawyer.

  15. CuriousCat: Photos by Fritz the Cat
    March 18th, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

    “I went for a long walk with the camera. Perhaps a bit too long, because she was looking for me everywhere. Anyway, she was very pleased when I came home with the camera and a mouse.”

  16. Jimmy
    April 4th, 2008 @ 5:41 am

    That’s brilliant, thanks for tipping me off about it! I wonder what our four cats would pick up on an average day? Mostly each other sleeping I guess!

  17. Izzy
    June 11th, 2008 @ 4:37 am

    Haha. Wow that’s is fantastic idea, we can use not a photo camera, but a video, and see what your cat doing all day long when your not at home.

  18. Curious Cat: Backyard Wildlife: Raptor
    July 15th, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

    This bird of prey was eating some unfortunate animal in my yard today…

  19. Stuart Morell
    March 10th, 2010 @ 1:43 am

    This is the sort of thing that could make a great nature program tv show. Like give a family of monkeys one of these each!

  20. Domestic Cats Remain Successful Predators » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    August 8th, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

    [...] As I wrote about before you can get your very own cat cam and see what your cat is up to. I posted an interview I did with the engineer that designs and sells the cat [...]

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