The concept of the digital pet is not a new one and they were all the rage in the mid to late 90s. Now Sony have brought the digital pet back for the modern audience but is it really that different? We purchased the EyePet to have a go with interesting findings including how a 2.5yr old child deals with it.
Early Digital Pets
The Tamagotchi was launched in 1996 by Bandai and took the world by a storm. This keychain sized pet needed regular care and attention and eventually got sick and died if the attention was not forthcoming. Many Tamagotchi are now dearly departed but the virtual pet was a massive success as Bandai have released 44 versions and had sold 70 million units as of 2008.
Around the same time Ubisoft launched Dogz and Catz, which eventually became part of the Petz franchise of games.
Fast forward ten years and Nintendo capitalised on the success of the DS console and launched Nintendogs. The user trained and cared for their dog using a combination of the touch screen and the microphone (to give voice commands).
This was a successful move for Nintendo and helped push the DS to a wide audience with the bundled Nintendogs application.
Almost five years later and SCEE and London Studios have released the EyePet for the PS3. The EyePet uses a combination of augmented reality, audio input and motion detection to create an engaging and rich experience of having a pet in your living room without having to clean up the poop.
The EyePet is a fictional oviparous species (it hatches from an egg) but looks like a cross between a monkey and a mogwai (search for Gremlins released in1984 kids!) So immediately the temptation is to name him/her Gizmo but we called ours Herbie. So what do you go through to get your own happy little Herbie running round your living room floor.
You need the Sony PlayStation Eye which you set up according to instructions from the helpful scientist who talks you through the process of setting up your room, lighting and camera to create the optimum conditions. You end up with an egg which you have to hatch by rocking it back and forth. Eventually your EyePet will hatch and the fun starts.
I won’t ruin it by giving too much away but you have daily challenges and training exercises to get you used to caring for your pet. When you complete these you earn gifts, toys and styling options to customise your EyePet and keep him/her happy!
By launching the game you are entering into a commitment to look after the little fellow; you have to play with him, feed him, wash him and scan him to ensure he is medically fit and mentally stable.
The level of user interaction is very good and there are a number of activities that are very clever including teaching your EyePet to draw by drawing a picture and showing it to the PlayStation Eye, singing into the microphone so he can learn to sing and using the “magic card” (augmented reality bit) that allows you to play games. There are also some nice little touches like his memories and dreams that show actual footage of you playing with him.
Who’s it for?
I considered the uses of the EyePet and think there is potential for use in the classroom as part of a scheme of work as there are valid learning points with respect to caring for an animal, responsibility, commitment and health/wellbeing of an animal.
I wondered what age groups would be able to deal with the concept of a virtual pet scampering around their carpet and how they would react with something that wasn’t really there but I was surprised to find that a 2.5 year old child was able to deal with this conceptually.
Here are a small sample of activities with the EyePet.
Stroking the EyePet
Teaching the EyePet to draw
Taking a shower
Scanning the EyePet to check health
Using the Magic Pen
Styling the EyePet
Bowling with the EyePet