Announcing Felino, our game for cats and humans

After months of designing, drawing, animating, and coding, the prototype of a new form of digitally mediated human-animal interaction finally starts to take shape. Together with Alex Camilleri we are putting a lot of our free time into the development of a tablet game for cats and humans called Felino. We started to develop this game because we are convinced that we, as humans, can develop better tablet entertainment for cats than the applications that currently exist.

Felino is a digital toy that allows humans and cats to play together. The main objective of Felino is really simple: enjoy and share playful moments with your feline companion. No highscores, no time pressure, no game-over – rather an experience that is more understandable for a cat: time spent playing together.

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Tijger, our first participant

We studied almost everything there is to know about cats since August 2013. This guided us in developing a digital experience that is based on informed design decisions that follow the initial guidelines proposed in the paper “Digitally Complemented Zoomorphism: a Theoretical Foundation for Human-Animal Interaction Design“, published last year by me and Stefano Gualeni.

With the current prototype the fun part starts: in the coming eight weeks, I will continue with user testing as part of my first year thesis project for the Master in Interaction Design I am following at Malmö University. Yes, this means that we will need to convince cats to voluntarily participate in my research. The aim of this study is to find out if structural analysis of video observations can provide additional value for user testing in animals and contribute to new design iterations for the game.

We do not have a specific release date in mind for our game. Eventually, we want to release Felino on both Android and iOS whenever it’ is ready.

I will keep you updated!

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Apps gone wild

Over the last few months several mobile/tablet applications intended for animal use have caught, not only mine, but a lot of people’s attention indicated by the amount of Youtube views and other buzz created by the videos mentioned in this post:

This Ipad game for cats created by Hiccup is one of the first applications intended for non-human use that got the attention of a large audience. In this very simple game the cat can chase either a digital representation of a mouse or a laser light. By tapping the object with their paws (or other body parts) the cat receives points. So far all the cats and kittens interacting with this application in my presence showed at least an interest in the moving object on the screen, most of them also started tapping the screen, and especially kittens got quite hooked in the chase after a while.

While this game, called Ant Smasher, is actually designed for human beings, the over 6,2 million viewers of this video could see how this bearded dragon interacted with the game. Other videos confirm that certain reptiles have an interest in screen interaction through this application or similar ones.

Next to these examples, there are apps functioning as tools for humans, such as dog whistles, GPS tracking, or training apps, that solely  focus on human needs and preferences, without the animal being aware of the (digital) interaction. Although these tools might come in handy for pet owners, they do not provide (human-)animal interaction or stimulate interaction through play and are therefore not part of the research I am focusing on.

The mobile applications shown in this post are commercially successful examples of how apps could facilitate ‘something’ for non-human species. However it does not provide us with a better understanding of the animal or its physical and mental needs. A lot of questions remain: is the animal actually playing? If yes, how is this form of play stimulated? How does the animal recognize represented digital objects? What does this interaction mean to the animal? Is the animal enjoying the interaction? What is actual enjoyment for an animal? Why does the animal play? How could human beings take part in the interaction? etc. 

I am convinced further research towards digitally mediated (human-)animal interaction can help us in finding answers.