The Future Of Pets

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The Future of Pets: Virtual Animals with Digital Minds

By Li Huang

You don’t have to be a veterinarian or zoologist to enjoy the company of animals. Many people spend quality time with their pets and establish bonds that last a lifetime.

But what if you don’t own any pets or live anywhere near approachable animals? Or what if your bond with any physical animals is indefinitely obstructed? Maybe you do have pets but just want a fresh experience with them? Just like medical technology has produced cures for many biological mishaps, virtual technology is on the verge of providing just the right remedy for your companionship woes.

Virtual reality rummages through the prospects of the real world and tries to incorporate those possibilities on a platform that will be readily accessible to viewers who otherwise could not. A long standing goal for many developers is to create a world that rivals reality, by projecting intelligent machines and other human beings into virtual reality; however, we are a long way from that. So why not experiment with animals instead?

Crafting virtual animals out of blocks and pixels is a task that is rendered simple in comparison to embedding them with the biological basis that would precisely mimic their figures.

It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

By the time we pull off this monumental VR task, virtual animal structures and animations should be hyper-realistic. With everything in place, we would be able to pet, ruffle, and interact with virtual animals like never before.

Don’t have a pet? Left your dog with someone for a few months? Your cat died last week? All of these things can leave you feeling lonely and longing for a furry companion - but with virtual animals, you might not even need an actual pet to begin with. Just wear your virtual reality device and you can be running around, laughing, and reacting to your pets’ intelligent whims while engaging in realistic behavior (and all without any of the responsibilities).

However, there are a few downfalls about virtual pets with digital minds. One being that they will most likely be very time consuming for users. Also, when you’re with your virtual dog or cat, you’ll most likely be alone: who wants to be caught prancing around without a real animal? Isolation is the nemesis of socializing, but many people will have this in mind when interacting with their virtual animals.

Eccentricity aside, if you’re scratching your virtual dog, chances are you won’t be petting anything in real life. Virtual animals with digital minds might one day replace all house pets and make the companionship of real animals obsolete. Until we get Matrix machines that hook up directly to our brains and simulate the sense of touch, virtual pets will be like fish in an aquarium. Not to mention, the amount of time it takes for VR developers to mold this technology into a feasible scenario is tremendous - so unless you’re going to wait it out and shuffle through your latest smartphone apps instead of buying a pet in the meantime, don’t complain too much.

Virtual reality with digital animals is a fantastic idea with wide ranging possibilities. If successful, it wouldn’t just be the traditional tail wagging to accompany its users, but could also be monkeys, snakes, elephants, and many other lifeforms. Who knows, there might be virtual reality forests and jungles. On one end, there may be animated teddy bears for toddlers and on the other, complex virtual interactions with other people, machines, and perhaps even those beyond our planet.

Yes, this might come at the cost of decreased socializing and lessened physical interaction with our pets in real life, but that’s the price of exploration that VR pioneers are willing to pay. And it all starts with virtual animals with digital minds.

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