Pet computing review

Working on a paper about new interaction partners, I tried to categorize the work done in what can be called "pet computing", i.e. the idea that "traditional human-machine interfaces and their advantages can be extended to other living beings. In order to provide them comfort and also to enhance human-animal communication interaction " as described in Savage, J., Sanchez-Guzmán Walterio Mayol, R.A., Arce, L., Hernandez, A., Brier, L., Martinez, F., Velazquez, A. & Lopez, G. (2000). Animal-Machine Interfaces, Proceedings of the 4th IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, 191. So, based on a review of the existing literature and concrete projects, I came up with 4 categories:

Pet-machine interaction This category is a pure "design for pet" topic: lots of products are explicitly designed for a pet target group: toys, DVDs but it also corresponds to animals playing video games or art projects such as "Augmented Animals" by Auger-Loizeau. The Wonderful Shot Dog Camera by Takara Tomy is also a device that allows pets to take photos themselves. Cricket robots are also part of this augmented animal domain.

(Pictures: left is a pif playing a video game with its snout, right is the dog camera)

Pets and their humans Here it's much rather about technologies for the owner: generally those products or services aim at tracking the pet (location-tracking) or allowing meetings between pets or owners (social software for animals... which are generally targeted to the owners). Generally, these systems are direct translations of the values and concerns humans shared about them to pets: tracking loved ones and improving sociability/encounters/meetings. Examples: there is a huge number of patents and papers about pet trackers (my favorite is Float-a-pet), some social software like Dogster (for dog owners) are also trendy.

Although, this is less about pet-to-pet interaction, a system such as pet palio (basically a matchmaking website for pets) falls in this category given the need to have a human to interact with the website.

Control pet Military menagerie is a also a lively domain in which people aim at bending animals to their will so that they could move them around, spy or attack. No comment about the ethic of such purposes.

Renewed interactions between pets and humans What I put in that category is all the projects that aim at creating new relationships between pets and their owners. This is where the innovation should and will happen, and where Julian and I are doing our investigations. Unfortunately, there are only few projects here: - feline fun park, a phidget cat toy which interacts with a cat for hours of feline fun. It detects cat interaction and reacts accordingly to keep the cat playing. - SNIF: a system that allows pet owners to interact through their pets' social networks. - Poultry Internet, that allows people to touch/hug their pets remotely and have a feeling of presence. - animal-controlled video-game: pacman game in which a human play against real crickets.

What is important here is that these projects often differs depending on the level of awareness the pet might have about its involvement in an interaction, which is often the problem here.

(Pictures: left is the feline fun park, right is poultry internet)

Virtual pets That one is more a side-note because it's not strictly speaking related to pet computing, given that Webkinz, V-Migo or Nintendogs are more tamagotchi-like projects.