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A 30 August 2007 Wall Street Journal article titled, “Is This Man Cheating on His Wife” discusses the real life challenges of a 53 year old man and his wife resulting from his actions in Second Life.  There (in Second Life) he has a wife, owns a mall, strip club, a dance club, and a private beach club.  His “real life” wife is concerned about the large amount of time he devotes to the game and especially about his online relationship with another woman in it.

The lengthy, feature article in Wall Street’s “Weekend Journal” section discusses how lines are blurring between real and virtual life for many people. Players devote large amounts of time and energy to their online presence, and the resulting virtual relationships. A recent study of 30,000 gamers by Nick Yee (recent Ph.D. grad from Stanford) found “nearly 40 percent of men and 53 percent of women who play online games said their virtual friends were equal to or better than their real-life friends.

The article goes on to report family law experts and marriage counselors are seeing a growing number of marriages dissolve over virtual infidelity.

The “real” wife of the man featured in the story has joined EverQuest Widows, an online support group for spouses of obsessive online games.

Our comments – wonder how long it will be till there are counselors in Second Life and similar virtual worlds to help people who spend too much time in their “real” life, neglecting their virtual presence? 

Pet PreservationsPet Preservations is one of several firms that can freeze dry your “real” pet when it dies so it can remain on display in your home as sort of a “virtual” pet.

They mention burial of pets is not an option in some locations, or you may move on later. Pet preservation is presented as a comforting alternative to burial or cremation.

The process is also called Freeze Dried Taxidermy. Some people just take their pet to the local taxidermist, but they use standard forms to mount most wild animals and those do not seem to “fit” pets into realistic behaviors.

Pets must be frozen shortly after death and then shipped to the site. The process takes several months.

Again, not a true virtual pet, but another example of something in the middle.

Life Size Pix

25kids25kids.com prints life size pictures of you, your kids, your pets, etc for sticking on your front lawn. I saw them this morning on one of the national news shows.

They are printed in color on a plastic substrate to make them weatherproof. The company claims they will hold their colors outside for years.

The news show I saw was discussing how many people slowed down when they drive by your yard because they think children are playing by the street.

You can buy some of the standard kids pictured or print your own kids.

All three people in the image shown are “fake”.

This is not exactly a virtual pet, but interesting none the less. This product fills in one more gap between real and virtual life.

A 6 August 2007 Associate Press report from Bangkok Thailand says policemen there who break the rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands with “Hello Kitty” on them as a mark of shame.  Littering, arriving late to work, parking improperly, and similar violations will earn policemen the armband for a day. They hope macho policeman will be humiliated by wearing the “girlie” symbol and never commit the offense again.

The hot pink armband has Hello Kitty sitting above two hearts.

A 1 August 2007 press release from Walt Disney Company reports Disney has acquired Club Penguin which now has over 700,000 paid subscribers and over 12 million activated users. Launched in October 2005, it grew very rapidly with little marketing effort.

Club Penguin targets children 6 to 14 and features animated avatar penguins in a snow covered virtual world. Users can visit with each other, participate in group activities, and buy and furnish a home with virtual currency earned in the game.

Other reports place the sale as $350 million in cash plus up to $350 million more depending on the site’s performance in 2008 and 2009.

Voice Comes to Second Life

The ability to speak (voice) is now part of the main Second Life viewer per “The Second Life Voice Viewer is Live!” a 2 August 2007 post in the Second Life Blog. 45,000 plus viewers have downloaded and tested it.

Voice is an optional feature and is turned off by default. It is available everywhere, land owners can control how it is used on their property.

The code is open source. The entire voice system is hosted on separate servers to not impair performance of the normal Second Life experience.

Bowlingual in useBowlingual, a small handheld device for interpreting the barks of your “real” dog was announced by a Takara press release on 10 June 2002. The Japan Acoustic Laboratory’s “Animal Emotion Analysis System” formed the basis for the invention. A database of voiceprints was developed for comparisons. Takara handled the planning and marketing. Dreams Come True, a Takara Group company, handled the product development.

A dog’s bark is picked up from a small microphone on his collar and echoed to the main device (using a process called Sound Forwarding), the sound is analyzed, and the voice translation is displayed on the screen.

Dr. Norio Kogure, director of Kogure Animal Hospital, provided expert advice on animal behavior. Sounds are divided into six categories: happy, sad, frustrated, angry, assertion, and desire. You can even record your dogs emotions while you are gone.

Bowlingual device Bowlingual has a datanalysis feature that compiles information on your dog over time to improve communication, and form a “doggie diary.”

It allows you to enter the dog’s name, breed, gender and birth date to improve the translation. In addition it provides training tips, offers health advice, and includes a timer.

Bowlingual was later sold in an English version in the U.S. for about $120.

Meowlingual in useWith Bowlingual being a big hit, Takara followed up with a similar product for cats. Meowlingual was announced in a 1 December 2003 press release.

Bowlingual was a tremendous success in Japan and received and almost unbelievable amount of publicity in the United States. Millions of people own dogs and were fascinated with the concept of a device interpreting their barks. Hundreds of publications ran brief articles about the device when it was first released.

Meowlingual deviceWe are still working on our efforts to write a history of virtual pets. As part of that effort we are trying to understand how all the different types fit in with one another, with real life and with other things that may have influenced them. Bowlingual and Meowlingual play an interesting role, as they are two of the few objects to go back the other way. They use small handheld electronic devices very reminiscent of keychain virtual pets to interact with real life, vs. real life interacting with a virtual pet.

The opportunity to save real souls by saving their virtual souls first is being recognized by an academic with ties to the Catholic Church. A 27 July 2007 Reuters report in Red Herring titled, Spreading the Gospel in Second Life. La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal published from Rome recently carried a message from Antonio Spardaro, an academic, urging Catholics to enter Second Life, gain an understanding of the game, and use the opportunity to meet people and grow. His article reports several religions already have churches and temples there.

He mentioned one Swedish Muslim says his avatar prays as regularly as he prays in real life.

A 16 July 2007 article in the Washington Post, Finding Religion in Second Life’s Virtual Universe, reports several religious groups based on well known religions are doing well in Second Life. As usual, there are a few folks a little further off the beaten path. Avatars for Change, is a multi-faith group that follows the words of the Great Avatar, or supreme being, by consulting an Avatarian Oracle. LifeChurch.tv, based here in Oklahoma broadcasts its weekly sermon to 12 locations AND to its virtual church in Second Life.

We noticed The Anglican Church in Second Life has a blog that talks quite a bit about their experiences in Second Life and has links to many other discussions of the concept of religion in virtual communities.

In April 2007, a seminar was held on Transhumanism and Religion in Second Life.

Whether you are a real person, a virtual pet, or an avatar, we encourage you to get your life in order. We will try to do the same. The Virtual Pets Blog.

Choro Mode Pet

Released back in early 2005, we include Choro Mode Pet here due to its unique method of control. A little cable connects the small robotic pet to the headphone jack of a Japanese mobile phone. The pet is then controlled by the “sounds” of you pressing the keys. For example: 1 to go left, 2 to go straight, 3 to go right. Plus it had some special action: **7999# to go in circles, **11111233# to feed it, **1114# to sing, **99111999911# to see the ghost and get scared.

Takara apparently used this same technology in a small racecar at that time.

The technology gadget blogs poked a lot of fun at the Japanese for not having bluetooth on their phones when this pet came out. That’s funny considering how far we still are behind the rest of the world in accepting cell phone technologies.

The photo above is from 3yen.com. They also had photos of a cat and a rabbit

Giga Pets return!

Giga Pet ScorpionHasbro (Tiger) has relaunched the famous Giga Pets from the early days of keychain pets. The new pets are available in several animals to suit both boys and girls (scorpion and  bunny shown here).

They are much more rounded in appearance than the early pets. We include a photo here of the original Digital Doggie from the early days for comparison. You can see considerable difference in the styles.

Pets include Dragon Lizard, Bunny, Pixie (sort of like Tinker Bell), Scorpion and Tomcat.

More power hungry than the earlier versions, the new units require three LR44 batteries.

Hasbro also has an optional TV game controller called Giga Pets Explorer that allows you play with three more virtual pets on your television, and explore Giga Island. Plus you can plug in one of your Giga Pets to play with it directly on the TV screen. One of the packages indicates they have a Panda, Monkey, and Pooch as the three online games and it looks like they are selling it with a mouse for the handheld pet. Instructions for Giga Pet Explorer are online.

Giga Pets Explorer

The old Giga Pet Digital Doggie is shown below for comparison with the current pets. Welcome back Giga Pets!

Giga Pets Doggie

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