Future of the
Virtual Pet Industry

Virtual Pet Design & Consulting Services

This page provides some info on our opinion of the furture and identifies some areas we would like to see the industry go in the future.


If you are interested in the future of virtual pets, some of our related pages may interest you as well.


The article below was written by us back in 1997. It is interesting to see that many of the things we predicted have come to pass. We are leaving the article intact for historical purposes.

Technology

Virtual Pets are here to stay. We will continue to see them in evolve as new technologies come on the scene. They have moved through Keychain games, TV Game boxes, robots and now mobile phones. Virtual pets will continue to rise in new formats as new media technologies are developed. Holograms and all sorts of virtual reality modes remain to be exploited. At least one holograpic pet (from V.P., Inc.) seems to have briefly appeared in the late 1990's. If virtual pets follow the pattern observed in some other areas, we may also see a rebirth of more traditional technologies (teddy bears, dolls, etc.), especially in today's more troubled times.

Virtual Pet?  A Virtual Mess! A Zoo Keeperís Perspective
By George L. Stanley
reviews the holographic pet from V.P. Inc.
Other technologies will include increased use of higher speed 3-D hardware and software with increasing use of virtual reality components (vision goggles, gloves, ect) and increased use of artificial intelligence combined with robotics (physical virtual pets). Years ago, we though holographics might make a showing, It has yet to rival the other technologies, but who knows what the future holds.

The fine points of gravity simulation and collision detection will be perfected at the entry PC level. As textures, lighting, and shading will improve, animation will become more realistic. Advancements in artificial intelligence will make learning and interaction appear more realistic

The physical applications (tamagotchi) will be far expanded to actually create "virtual cats and dogs". Fluid quadruped and biped motion will be mastered, including gait, turning, and switching leads (lead foot). Much of this prediction has already started to come to pass. Heavy duty 3-D CAD packages (like Pro Engineer and Solid Works) combined with math modeling modules will enable the design of increasingly mobile complex creatures.

One of the real challenges will be true bird flight. Gliding flight on a large scale was obtained by the robot pterodactyl at the Smithsonian a few years ago. Perhaps some financial prizes will be established similar to those for human powered flight will help to focus on problem areas such as these.

You can get more info on current and near future virtual pet technologies from our Links page in the Virtual Pet Research Technology section.

Physical "Virtual Pets"

The tamagocchi is actually a hybrid computer virtual pet / physical virtual pet. It is a physical unit that contains a computer display of a pet. As the tamagocchi is replaced by more complex physical virtual pets that are physical units themselves (not displays), their environments will be extended from land to the air and sea and possibly even underground. Remote control airplanes will be given artificial intelligence to fly themselves and then operator interaction with these "virtual birds" will give them personalities and actions. The same for model boats and submarines which will become "virtual fish." The basic motions and actions will be automatic. Then they will be overlaid with growth and a learning personality. Physical virtual dogs and cats could replace several of the elements of pet ownership still lacking in computer pets.

Currently solid objects can be digitized by laser scanning them and a 3-D model can then be made. This process will used to scan existing pets to make 3-D models of them. These models will then be animated and you can have a "virtual pet" version of your real pet. You can input his basic personality and actions and this virtual pet can accompany you on your pc (as a computer virtual pet) and in the real world (as a physical virtual pet) to places fido can't go as well as it can accompany you after the real "fido" is deceased.

Another version of the above process is currently done by using top, side and front photo of an object to create a 3-D model. Agencies could specialize in creating animated pet models (computer and real world) from photos sent in or scanned and sent over the net to them.

Anyone interested in physical virtual fish should see the work done at MIT on the Robo-Tuna. A general discussion and several references to it are given on another Polson Enterprises web site. Our Recreational Boat Building Industry website has a product technology section with an area providing Robo-Tuna Information.

We see a huge future in the area of physical virtual pets. Applications will range from stuffed animals that look like your real pet to full blown artificial intelligence driven robot virtual pets that are almost undistinguishable from the real thing.

Becoming the Pet

This same technique with dogs and cats (creating robot like pets with a lot of their natural abilities and actions built in) could open a whole new realm of pet ownership. You could be transcended into "being the pet" and actually interact with real animals. You could go all the way and interact with a group of other physical pets being controlled by other people or being supported by a computer. The basic functions and movements of the animal would be automatic. You would be supplying the personality and a few decision (chase, run, bite, bark, hungry, play, ect). It would be very interesting to actually interact with other pets on their own level.

This "becoming the pet" concept will probably first be played out with online pets, but it doesn't seem to sound as interesting as it will be when you get to go one on one with your neighbor's real dog.

An artificial intelligent sheep dog might stand watch over a herd at night and send you live video or even call you on his cell phone when problems occur.

Applications

We see increased personalization of pets. Just as there are now many kinds of animals and many breeds of each animal used as pets, we think the virtual pet world will mimic the real world in terms of variety.

We see applications ranging from very light weight screen savers to heavy duty full blown virtual reality applications complete with goggles and sensing gloves. To highly developed physical "virtual pets"

We've long envisioned a remote controlled fish or shark that could be driven around in an aquarium by its owner. You could play with the other fish and amaze visitors.

Therapy applications for the mentally handicapped, those in prison, and other will abound.

The military and police might make use of physical "virtual dogs" in security and sniffing applications.

Physical virtual pets could be made to look like anything, including people.

With the June 97 Wall Street Journal announcement of the Tamahonam (gangster) keychain pet that smokes, drinks, and uses a knife for "turf wars" we can immediately foresee a whole new world of "bad guys" and "bad gals." Drug using virtual pets, ladies of the evening virtual pets, gay virtual pets, imprisoned virtual pets, computer hacker virtual pets, and other possibilities come to mind. As we said earlier, we think the virtual world is like the real world and will eventually be populated by all living things and a lot of things, just imagined. Their survival will be somewhat like real life with natural selection (sales) determining the strongest while the weak (few sales) go to extinction.

Users

We see young children being able to learn how to care for a pet before they get a real one. Those in constrained living conditions (hospitals, nursing homes, military duty, prisons, firemen, inner city apartments, college dorms) will be able to have some of the benefits of owning a pet without interfering with their environment. The elderly will have some companionship and something to regularly do. Some of more physical applications (tamagocchi) will allow non computer users to participate.

Physical virtual pets (dog and cat robots) will allow a fuller experience of pet ownership, and as mentioned in the applications section, could actually open a new realm of pet ownership as you control the pet and interact with other animals (real or virtual).

As more virtual pets become available in both breadth (more kinds of pets) and depth (more selections within each kind of pet) we can see collectors coming into the scene. Just as many people now collect things with horses, or pigs, or chickens on them - people will collect certain types of virtual pets. Also some may collect antique virtual pets.

The users will be composed of many groups and segments of the population. Each group will have its own interests and needs. This type of environment brings out the best in the producers of virtual pets as the large and small companies vie for dominance in many different areas.

The Wall Street Journal article on our Hoyotan Tamago (Virtual Gangster) Page mentions that some schools have actually provided counseling to students when their virtual pet died.

Accessories and Accompanying Developments

We envision many accessories (all kinds of equipment that parallels read equipment) such as dog dishes, grooming tools, pooper scoopers, dog toys, and so one will be developed. Kennels to park your virtual pet in, dog nappers, virtual pounds to get a virtual pet from, cemeteries to bury them in, want adds to buy and sell them in. Virtual groomers might take in your computer pet and give them a "doo." How about including genetic code with the virtual pets and actually standing them at stud and creating puppy kennels? This could lead to virtual breed organizations, pedigree suppliers, breed shows, and other parallels to the real world. Dog Pounds, neutering campaigns, vaccinations, zoning, lost and found ads, obedience schools, hunting preserves, how to train your virtual pet books? These developments and others will occur for both computer virtual pets and physical virtual pets as our "real world situations" are extended to the world of virtual pets.

We see a number of "non-pet" attributes being added to both physical and computer virtual pets. Thing like radio music, talking or chiming or barking clocks, human speech or a made up language that can be understood like "Klingon", voice activated portable or cell phones, smoke alarms, alarm clocks, many PDA (personal digital assistant) functions, radio weather report, time and temp report, and others. Those with children just reaching the age of being able to be left a lone by themselves might gain added security from a virtual pet that could call the parents or emergency numbers in case of problems, fire, or other emergencies. Their might even be a virtual pet especially developed for this light duty "baby sitting" role? Others might be developed more for home security purposes. A roaming virtual dog with motion sensors and the ability to bark, control lights, alarms, and make phone calls could be quite a deterrent.

We can foresee a time when virtual animal rights groups will even come into action. At first they will be a joke ran by a high school (or grade school) kid. Then they will be taken over by zealots that might even have a point. Perhaps treating virtual animals poorly will lead to treating actual animals poorly.

Some of the technologies and products might be transferred to real pets to increase their utility? Small cell phones, small videocams, alarms, clocks, smart cards for entry in certain places, pre-recorded messages, and other items that might become a part of your real pet's collar or be somehow carried by your pet might make your real pet even more valuable to you?

Technological Forecasting: When Will Specific Developments in Virtual Pets Occur?

Certain landmarks must be passed, first in the lab, and later in real products as virtual pets evolve. If there is interest in our readers we will try to identify some of them (with your help) and apply the Delphi technique (again with your help) in an effort to determine when some of these landmarks may be reached.

What Companies Will be the Leaders in the Virtual Pet Industry?

From looking at history - they will not be the companies currently leading in the pet industry and its related food and accessories areas. This will be a new field. Already several are staking a claim. Some of the niches can be filled by one or two man (person) firms with strong computer capabilities. Others will be filled splinter groups of larger technical firms, such as the efforts at Fujitsu - Interactive Division. We foresee that eventually the real pet industry will see it as a threat to their existence and they will try to get involved. They will buy up the smaller firms to establish a presence and promote their real products while allowing interaction with virtual pets that will hopefully encourage you to obtain a real pet at a future time.

Epilog

We hope that the experience of real pet ownership is not removed from those who are able to care for a real pet. Instead, we hope that the ability to care for virtual pets will convince more people they are ready for true ownership. Also, we hope that the experience of caring for a virtual pet will make real pet owners better and more knowledgeable caretakers of their real pet. Also, that the void felt when a real pet dies, might somehow be partially filled by developments in the world of virtual pets until another real pet is obtained.

What do Your Think??

What do you think the future of virtual pets holds?? What do you think about the picture we paint of their future? Do you agree with it or is it just another temporary fad? Click on the mailbox and drop us a line. We'll post your thoughts (we will post them less your name and address).


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