Dogscotch – Global Game Jam 2014

For the Global Game Jam 2014 we made a digitally augmented variant of hopscotch, called Dogscotch, that can be played together with a dog. In the activity of play, humans can form complex abstractions and embrace structured rules to experience games. We often use our imagination while playing games; dogs just perceive the environment the way it is. These two opposing perceptions come together in this game, created in 48 hours.

We interpreted the global theme of this gamejam from the perspective of a dog:

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (Dog, 2014).

The question that remains is whether the dog-player is actually playing or not. Play in animals can be recognized according to different behavioral elements; some of these are clearly visible in this video (wagging tails, curiosity, and interaction with toys). However, the use of food as reward leads to an extrinsic motivation that highly influences the behaviour of the dog.

We are sure that the dogs had fun. They joined voluntarily and spent active time together with their owners. We believe this development in experimental games proposes interesting questions and explores new areas of play in non-humans.

Credits:
Alex Camilleri – @AlexColorblind
Michelle Westerlaken – @colombinary

music: Ratatat – Shempi

More details on http://globalgamejam.org/2014/games/dogscotch

How dogs watch TV

In contrast to other dogs, my dogs are not very interested in watching TV. However, with the development of new technologies this might change in the future.

According to Ernst Otto Ropstad, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, with the development of newer TV’s with a higher resolution and more frames per second, dogs might be able to actually perceive TV as film instead of a set of flickering images.

Where we as humans need about 16 to 20 frames per second to perceive images as moving film, according to this article, dogs need about 70 frames per second. Still, dogs perceive the content in a different way than humans, because dogs see different colours. They perceive colours with only two cones (retina receptors) where humans have three. In his book, The Truth About Dogs, Steven Budiansky shows the image below, visualising how dogs perceive colours based on a research by Neitz, Geist, and Jacobs. The left size represents the image how humans would observe it and the right side shows the perception of dogs. Due to this difference in visual capabilities, dogs also generally see less detail than humans.

According to Ropstad, not all dogs can see equally well or show as much interest in watching TV as others. There might be a difference in dog breeds and/or an individual difference that has not been researched yet.

The activity of TV watching dogs has already been recognized by Dog TV channel startups that create content specifically for dogs. Besides some ear movements, my dogs were not too enthusiastic about the videos shown for example on the website of DOGTV, but perhaps a better frame rate, bigger screens, and less lazy dogs might give more interesting results.

dog colors

Human-Animal Interaction Through the Internet

This video on the CNN website shows how the website visitors of a Californian animal shelter can remotely interact with kittens through the internet. The application allows its users to remotely move objects in the kittens’ shelter and real-time video is provided so that the human being can see how the kittens respond to their actions. What is great about this project is that Best Friend Animal Society reported that the cat adoptions HAVE MORE THAN DOUBLED after setting up this technology.

Another, slightly older research that focused on remote human-animal interaction includes the Poultry Internet – Mixed Reality Lab project carried out in Singapore. This study proposes and tests a cybernetics system that uses mobile and internet technology to allow human-animal interaction including both visualization and tactile sensation of real objects. The chicken in this video is wearing a hap-tic jacket, and the human is able to interact with the animal by touching a pet-doll object containing sensors, which are transferred to the hap-tic jacket in the form of vibrations. In other words: if the human touches the pet-doll object, the animal feels vibrations through the jacket. Interesting to me in this case is that the tested chickens in a preference experiments chose the room in which the vibrations were activated in 73% of the cases over a room without the activated jacket.

Next to these two examples, there are other technological artefacts that allow for remote human-animal interaction, such as dog GPS tracking products, webcam streams for a variety of wildlife, or the Pig Chase project also referred to in another post on this blog.

The most remarkable thing to me in this case is that all the examples mentioned above allow for human-animal interaction that is initially activated, stimulated, and operated solely by the human being. This results in a type of one-way communication in which the human-being is in control and decides when and how the interaction takes place. However, the results of both projects in the videos above (higher adoption rate and positive preference studies) seem promising for both the human being and the animal.

(Image by Eva Touloupidou)