Auto Ball Launcher Will Be Your Dog’s New Best Friend

If there’s one bright spot on the blight that is this pandemic, it’s got to be all the extra time we’re spending with our pets. Dogs especially love that we’re home all the time and want to spend it playing, but sometimes you need to get stuff done. Why not head outside with your laptop and keep the dog happy with an automatic ball launcher?

This is a work in progress, and [Connor] plans to publish a BOM and the STL files once it’s all finished. For now, it’s a working prototype that shoots a ball into the air and about 25 feet away, from the looks of it. Far enough to be fun, but not so far that it goes over the fence.

All [Connor] has to do is drop the ball in the top, which you know is going to lead to training the dog to do it himself. A proximity sensor detects the ball and starts up a pair of 540 R/C motors, then a servo drops the ball down the internal chute. The motors spit the ball out with great force with a pair of profiled, 3D-printed wheels that are controlled by a Turnigy ESC and an Arduino Nano.

In the future, [Connor] plans to print a cover for the electronics and enlarge the funnel so it’s easier for the dog to drop in the ball. Check out the brief demo and build video after the break.

All dogs should be able to get in a good game of fetch as often as they want, even if they happen to be blind.

20 thoughts on “Auto Ball Launcher Will Be Your Dog’s New Best Friend

  1. The last time Pokey played ball, he’d sit on the couch and drop the ball, expecting me to fetch it.

    Strange as it may seem, there comes a point where dogs are not interested in playing ball. It used to ve any time we saw a ball while out he’d at least pick it up briefly (and before that, bring it home). But he now shows no interest.

    At 14.5 years old, he is older than many Labradors.

    1. Take good care of him. He wil be gone one day soon, and it will be awful. It does help if you know you gave him a good life. I lost my 13yo german shepherd last year. She was such a good girl…

  2. Nice to see an Onshape user, very nice design. And very cool that people can access it :
    https://cad.onshape.com/documents/a460d476ac3d9e97c257ba80/w/1891adc263c9008f337cfd4e/e/e41038ffd4a2cffd823ade48
    I wonder what will happen when the dog faces the launcher when it fires the ball… Have you tried putting your hand in front of it? I’m wondering how much energy this releases.
    So now you just need to train the dog to drop the ball on the launcher for endless fun, and very fit dog!

  3. Labradors are fundamentally stupid. Device needs a hopper filled with balls, with a launch delay, and the occasional fake launch (dog will never learn, will always run for invisible ball), then it would be more auto, and wouldn’t rely on the dog showing any degree of intelligence and putting the ball back in t he correct place. Food reward system might help though. Jerry’s brilliant – dog that exercises himself with joyful futility.

  4. why are there so many hacks here on “not interacting with your dog”
    your dog is your best friend
    you should treasure the time you spend with them, not avoid it
    the dog loses interest because it wants to play with you not some machine

  5. I can’t help but feel kinda sad seeing this.

    If you now create a machine that goes out with your friends for you, you have automated your social life (if such a thing exists at all right now)

  6. These are great! Combine this with an automatic feeder and automatic poop box and you don’t even have to look at or go near your pet. for weeks. Wait, why do we have pets?

  7. For you folks complaining about devices that avoid interacting with your dog, consider this. Some dogs are relentless about chasing the ball. You can only spend so much time throwing the ball for the dog before your arm gives out, you have to go to work, have to clean the house, and a multitude of other necessary activities. It’s not a replacement for interacting with your dog, but a supplement. This is particularly important for high-energy dogs like Border Collies, Labs, (some) German Shepherds, etc.

    That being said, not all dogs can be taught to use one. One of my German Shepherds is extremely smart, but her problem is that while she REALLY wants you to throw the ball, she has a hard time letting go of the one she has. I have to use three tennis balls to be able to keep one in action. I spent a lot of time working with her to get her to drop the ball in the hopper of an iSpot, but she just can’t bring herself to let it go, even though she knows (to the best of my knowledge) that there will be another one in the air momentarily.

    One of my other GSDs understood the iSpot, but didn’t care about it because they wanted the human interaction.

    My friend’s Malinois loved the ChuckIt, once he learned that he shouldn’t stand in front of it.

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