Can Virtual Pets Help?

Hey! Do you all remember those little, egg-shaped, hand held pets called Tamagotchi?  I remember taking mine everywhere and talking with all my friends about it. Even to this day they remain iconic and around 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold around the world!

Around 20 years ago Bandai created a toy revolution that, for a short time, took the world by storm. Tamagotchi, a portable virtual pet, became a craze children of the early 90’s went wild for. They were easy for parents and kids alike. They could offer companionship but didn’t require the effort a real pet does. People adored their virtual companions to the where you could buy coffins and headstones for them.

For a lot of us however, we grew out of the little pets and subsequently virtual pets all together. They were a fad in middle school sure, but those days are gone. Most of you may not even remember yours anymore. And while I still own mine, the battery has long since dead. However, hope is not lost for virtual pets!

In 2008, the University of Georgia had an idea! They brought in two groups of children and gave one group a virtual dog companion. The other group was left pup-less. The hope was to made a virtual pet game that focused on helping obese children exercise by simulating a pet working out with them. This would hopefully prompt the children to exercise more.

The children’s pudgy puppy would lose weight alongside them and make the journey feel more fulfilling. They could name them, color their collar and help it get better. It was a personal pet, a companion. 

If a child was able to meet their physical activity goal, the pup would celebrate and change with them. Over time the child would be able to teach their puppy to do simple tricks like sitting or rolling over. This encouraged the children to work harder. On average, they had an additional 1.09 hours of physical activity per day than the other group. A clear change!

People thought the virtual pet had died all those years ago with the fall of Tamagotchi, however the technology is still being utilized for unique ideas. Hopefully the future for the little creatures is bright!tamagotchi_0124_ubt

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