Friday, March 11, 2005

The Reality of Virtual Pets

The Tamagotchi craze has hit my daughters' school. The Tamagotchi is a small toy with a few buttons and a screen where you can play with a cartoonish creature. You can feed and play with your creature to make him/her happy. Two people can point their devices at each other and their Tamagotchis will play and possibly "mate".

First my older daughter's fourth grade friends gave her a Tamagotchi and soon after my younger first grader also wanted one and we relented. She then convinced several of her first grade friends that they needed them which caused some parents to call us mostly because they got these Tamagotchi and nobody could figure out how to work them. My first grader is giving out lessons tomorrow.

These devices beep when they need attention—food or playing or needing cleanup after an "accident". Don't attend to them and they will die. My kids pay constant attention to the Tamagotchi and it is sometimes hard to bring them back to reality. My youngest, a couple of days ago, got all excited when her Tamagotchi learned to go to the bathroom by himself. It didn't seem like all that long ago that I got excited about the same thing for her.

Luckily young kids are fickle and the Tamagotchi craze will soon pass. But move over Godzilla, the scariest monster from Japan is a friendly looking creature in a plastic case.


  1. Well, the Tomagotchi craze might pass, but there seems to be a need for "labor intensive but slightly amusing" activities. For example, people play solitare and minesweeper mindlessly for hours.

    Another trend are MMORPGs, where much of the time is spent, say, learning to be a blacksmith and making weapons that no one else in the game will even use. All of this grinding seems to be an inherent part of these games: there's even one game called Puzzle Pirates in which you play Tetris-like games constantly.

    For me, I guess I spend all of my time reading blogs and making new posts of my own.

  2. The CS community has somewhat "grown up" with respect to the Turing Test, but I wonder how hard it is to make a program that will pass a "Pet Turing Test" of sorts (the problem of devising the test might be a challange in itself I guess).

  3. Eldar: getting something as intelligent as a dog or cat (or even a mouse) would be a major feat. Maybe in ten years we could match a pet turtle; but I think the state of the art now isn't quite matched with even insects or lobsters.