17 April 2006

Virtual Reality Games: Pets vs. Owners

Sometimes blogging is easy. You just let the story speak for itself.

Researchers develop games that allow you and your pet to compete on equal terms:

If you've ever wanted to match wits with your pet hamster, Mice Arena could be the game for you.

As in a traditional video game, players navigate a virtual world in a bid to stay alive. The twist? Computerized movements in Mice Arena are mapped to and from the real world, where an actual predator (your hamster) gives chase to a digital avatar (you) by pursuing a real piece of bait.
[Insert obligatory Richard Gere joke here.]

"We want to enable pets to play games in a way very similar to the way human players' play," said RASTER's Vladimir Todoroviæ, a collaborator working on the Metazoa Ludens project. "To play a computer game with your hamster would definitely make us think about where we have come with digital tradition now."

It may sound like a really complicated version of Ms. Pac-Man, but the goal of the game makers is ambitious: to merge human spaces with pet spaces through pervasive computing interfaces. By creating high-tech, pets-versus-owners computer games, researchers hope to gain new insights into animal behavior, and perhaps develop new technologies that could close the gap between the species.

What "gap between the species"? Are they talking about the fact that we're taller than hamsters?

In addition to Mice Arena, two other games in the Metazoa Ludens series have been proposed. In Chicken Petman, a real chicken will don the role of a ghost and chase movable bait controlled by a person within a maze. In Jellyfishtrone, the team plans to translate the swimming motion of a jellyfish into the serpent's movements in the traditional game of Snake.

Chicken Petman sounds suspiciously like a certain film starring Mr. Don Knotts. And since when do people make pets out of jellyfish? A chicken, maybe, but a jellyfish?

All the games are being designed to remove the dominant "human edge" and allow both animals and people to have an equal chance of winning, while potentially opening up an entirely new dimension of enjoyable pet-human interaction.

"There is a history and tendency of playing games with animals but most games use very simple items that aren't as 'smart' as computers," said Todoroviæ. "For example, people use tree branches when playing with dogs. What we are exploring is a device that will enable clearer relations and maybe bring some completely unexpected results."

Hey, I do use a tree branch to play with my dog. It's a fun game I like to call "Drop That Damn Dead Bird or Else, Bitch!"

I'm not sure how well that would translate to the virtual world.


Blogger Retired Geezer said...

It's a fun game I like to call "Drop That Damn Dead Bird or Else, Bitch!"


I think I could beat my dog at zeroing a BFO to the Second Harmonic. She might have an advantage at the higher frequencies.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

That joke was actually inspired by a true story. One time my mom had let the dog out, and she got ahold of a dead bird. Mom, naturally, didn't want her to eat it, for her own safety, so started yelling at her to drop it. The dog pretended not to hear (she's very good at that), so Mom went in the garage to get a broom to make her drop the bird. But by the time she got back, not even sixty seconds later, Pepper had devoured the entire bird, feet, feathers, beak, and all, and was happily licking her chops and smiling at Mom. We just shook our heads in disgust.

11:55 AM  

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