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Healing Through Virtual Pet Interactions

Healing Through Virtual Pet Interactions

We connect with animals by interacting with our cute furry pets. Or perhaps you prefer watching videos of animals living out in the great wild. Many of us like to feel relaxed by connecting with animals in some way, whether real or virtual.

Let us introduce you to the world of virtual animals through smartphones and games, and its effects on our mental well-being.

They Are Cute, But…

Animal therapy is an effective way to feel happier.

In recent years, many facilities offer animal therapy programs as an effective way to deliver relaxation. However, they face challenges with risks such as animal allergies and pet loss. Allergic reactions and farewells are not easy to avoid and can be extremely painful.

Animal robots are introduced to the market as a way to try and solve these issues. Perhaps you have already heard of the adorable dog robot or the fluffy seal robot. These animal robots are available at a hefty price tag and can be a hassle if you ever need maintenance.

An interesting study has been conducted under the question; can virtual animals through smartphones and games have the same effect as real animals do?

Robot dogs have been available, such as Sony's Aibo.

How Effective Are Virtual Pets?

A psychological research team at Kurume University measured a group of participant’s moods and emotions in advance. Then, they divided them into the following four activity groups.

Group A:Play games that interact with virtual pets.
Group B:Play completely different games, such as puzzle games.
Group C:Watch videos that show beautiful landscapes.
Group D:Relax in a quiet room.

The team measured the participant’s moods and emotions again after these activities were done. Results indicated that virtual pet games were most effective for fatigue.

Group study conducted by research team says, "yes" to digital pets.

‘Active Encouragement’ Helps Recover Fatigue

Researchers suggested ‘active encouragement’ as a factor and reason to why virtual pet games were more effective on fatigue than other methods such as beautiful landscape videos.

When you interact with virtual pets onscreen, the pet responds with a reaction. On the other hand, watching beautiful landscapes are considered a passive activity where the viewers never try to actively engage with their screen.

Onscreen virtual pets respond to a player’s initiation to interact, and this seems to help players recover from fatigue.

Active encouragement through onscreen pets.

A Mistake-Free Pet Interaction

In the experiment mentioned above, the difference between other games and virtual pet games were the ‘sense of disappointment’ that arose during their play. For puzzle and action games, there would be a mission or goal to aim for. When players could not accomplish this, a negative reaction occurred. On the other hand, players that interacted with virtual pets were content on just watching a dog walk around onscreen endlessly. This mistake-free engagement made them feel less tired than other goal-driven games.

Today, there are many virtual animal games available to us. If you only have small pockets of time available and are looking for a way to relax, onscreen virtual pets might be worth giving a shot.

Virtual pet games can be played anywhere via tablets and smartphones.


Healing effect of virtual pet(Akinaga Sato, Tsuneo Kito, Kurume University psychological research (8), 2009)