What is FluentPet?
Who created FluentPet?
The FluentPet tiles and button system was developed by Leo Trottier, a San Diego-based cognitive scientist, in close collaboration with the Canine AAC Test Pilots, a group of people based in the US, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, and beyond, who have made incredible progress teaching their dogs to use sound buttons to express themselves.
Where are you based?
The core of our team is in California, working remotely from San Diego and Oakland.
Where are the sound buttons and tiles manufactured?
Like nearly every electronic device on the planet, the tiles and buttons are manufactured in China. We are working as hard as we can to expand production to North America and Europe.
Where does my kit ship from?
Because we just launched, in order to get it to you as quickly as possible, we are shipping directly from Hong Kong. We are scaling up production and working to get inventory over to the United States, but at this early stage doing so would add a five-week shipping delay as the kits make their way over here by boat. None of us like these long shipping times, but there's not much more we can do given the level of demand and the current state of global logistics.
Where can I purchase FluentPet products?
FluentPet products are available exclusively on this website.
Are you collaborating with the Speech Language Pathologist Christina Hunger?
Not currently, but we'd love to! We want to partner with anyone who can help spread the word about the potential of giving dogs and other animals better abilities to communicate and express themselves.
What kind of research are you doing?
FluentPet developer Leo Trottier is a PhD candidate in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. We are working with the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at UC San Diego to better understand exactly how it is that dogs and other animals use, and are able to use, sound buttons to express themselves. For more on this, please check out How.TheyCanTalk.Org for information on how to join (and, don't worry, you don't need to have FluentPet buttons to be a part of this!).
What are the HexTiles and buttons made of?
The FluentPet HexTiles are made of a combination of PVC (the same material used for water pipes), EVA foam (the material used for non-toxic mats), and rubber. The buttons are made of ABS plastic and contain electronics.
Does the product come with a start up guide?
Each kit comes with a guide to getting started. We also recommend watching the Getting Started video available at http://clvr.pt/getstarted
Do you offer a training guide or classes?
This practice is extremely new, and there are no scientifically validated methods for training dogs to use buttons. Nonetheless, there are approaches that seem to work better than others, which we have begun compiling at TheyCanTalk.Org. We also recommend checking out How.TheyCanTalk.Org.
Do you have any intention to have a smaller size for smaller breeds?
Our system is designed to accommodate both the smallest and largest dogs. For small dogs, the buttons are designed to require very little pushing force. For larger dogs, we recommend spreading fewer buttons out across multiple HexTiles.
The product I ordered doesn't work with me and my pet. Can I return it?
Please refer to our refund policy.
The product I received is broken/defective. How can I return it?
We stand behind our products and will happily replace parts that don't work. Please refer to our refund policy for more details.
My sound button sounds bad/distorted. What's going on?
If you're only experiencing this with one of your sound buttons, you may be eligible for a replacement. If it's occurring with all of them, the most likely scenario is that the sound received by the microphone is too loud – by experimenting with the volume of your voice and positioning the button further away from you while you're recording, you can significantly improve the button audio and reduce distortion.
Will I get tracking number for my order?
Yep! We will be sending over tracking information for your order as soon as we have it. Please refer to your order confirmation email for your planned ship date.
Do you ship internationally? What carriers do you use?
We ship internationally via a range of couriers and postal services depending destination country and realtime estimates of courier delivery times.
How long will it take to receive my order?
Shipping speeds vary depending on the option chosen. Please note Postal Services (Standard, HKExpress, DHL Ecommerce) can take more than 5 weeks due to the heavy volume caused by the pandemic and the backlog from the holiday season. They also provide limited tracking, only updating the milestones.
Do you have an affiliate program?
We do! Eligibility is based on your learner's level of progress: everyone with a dog or other learner who has demonstrated success with FluentPet is welcome. Apply here.
Having a common pattern for all words of a particular category makes it easier for a learner to remember which words are located on which HexTile, and improves the probability that your learner will be able to recognize that the the words belong to a common group.
The idea of organizing words into categories for Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) word boards is not a new idea. Our categories were inspired by the "Fitzgerald key" invention, a tool developed in the early 1900s by Edith Mansford Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald was a deaf American teacher who used it to help her students construct sentences that were grammatically correct. We do not yet know with certainty that the FluentPet approach to organizing button boards will be successful, but our expertise in cognitive science and years spent designing teaching tools for dogs leads us to believe that it this organization is likely to be significantly easier to remember than sound buttons organized in a plain cartesian grid.
In order to be useful, the patterns must be distinguishable from each other by a learner. This means having big differences between them visually. In cognitive science, we call kinds of differences 'dimensions' of difference. An apple might look different from another apple only in terms of its color, and nothing else, in which case we would say that it differed along only 'one' dimension (color).
For the HexTile patterns we tried to have them be distinguishable along as many dimensions as possible, since every learner is different, and thus some will find certain differences more important than others. So, we designed the HexTiles to differ based on color, the shapes depicted within them, the size and orientation of the shapes within them, and the shapes' spacing and distribution.
Given that dogs also have limited color vision, we wanted to make sure that any colors we included could be easily distinguished irrespective of the color vision abilities of the viewer. (An approximation of dogs' color vision can be observed by using this Color Blindness Simulator and choosing "Green-Blind/Deuteranopia")
Given that we can safely assume that the patterns can be distinguished by nearly all learners, it's very likely that they will be able to learn to distinguish one tile from the other. This means one of the next things we want to avoid is the learner 'over-learning' properties of the tiles. The reason why we have varied the colors of the objects in the HexTiles is to avoid associating in a learner's mind any particular color with a word category. And for the same reason, we made sure to reuse the colors across all of the tiles. We additionally varied the tiles' background colors only slightly from one tile to the next to make it easier to see the HexTile's boundaries.
The last consideration in the HexTiles ' design was that the shapes on the tiles be somehow 'intuitive'. As a low priority, and a design consideration that's unlikely to have any impact at all for a learner, the designs we included were not based on rigorous scientific testing (which, in any case, would have been nearly impossible to do with dogs at present). It's unlikely that a learner, human or otherwise, would be able to immediately say what the category is that we're associating with a given tile pattern. However, we figured we might as well try and be as intuitive as possible.
In considering the patterns themselves, we decided to group noun-related concepts (people, places, and things) together. You will notice that we did this by making all such word categories be represented by triangles.
The 'sentence subjects' (people and dogs usually) are two upside down triangles that are closer together. These kind of look like legs or teeth, and in nature, two immediately adjacent upside-down triangular-shapes usually only happen when there are animals involved.
The sentence objects are much smaller (things we typically call 'objects' are usually on the smaller side), and are in a range of different orientations. So, e.g., while we usually see people right side up, we might see a dog bone in a range of different orientations.
The 'places' or 'where' words are large (as places tend to be) and look like pyramids or hills.
The other patterns are not designed to represent 'people', places, or things, and so aren't triangular:
The 'actions' or 'verbs' tile contains waves or curves, which are typically associated with motion (there are relatively very few frozen waves!). Another time that such curves occur in nature is in the arc of a thrown object.
The 'descriptor' words are depicted as a combination of curve and triangle. As 'modifiers', they are themselves more mixed up visually.
The 'social' words are meant to be the most distinctive. A grid pattern such as the one it depicts, is usually only found as a result of human intervention (perfect squares and rectangles are extremely rare in nature yet extremely common in the things we build).