Meet GeriJoy. He’s a virtual dog. He’s a talking dog. He’s even described as “a compassionate” dog.
He was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be an interactive companion for older people with dementia or memory problems, serving to provide what his makers call “continual stimulation.”
But there’s something about GeriJoy, noble as the idea may be, that I find a little bit patronizing, a little bit insulting, and highly phony. His creation also seems an awfully circuitous and robotic route to take to provide a virtual experience with an animated creature when the real thing is so abundantly available.
Clearly, I’m cynical, or at least wary, when it comes to technology — and perhaps more. It was only yesterday, after all, that I cruelly bashed soft and fuzzy stuffed animals.
Despite that, techno-wizards keep trying, intent, it seems, on trying to capture a no-shed, no-drool, no bark, no worries version of dog — be it stuffed, virtual, or mechanical — and then convince you that their inanimate, or animated, object will love you unconditionally forever.
The truth is, close as they might come — and cloning probably comes closest — they never will. Ha ha. Take that.
If GeriJoy, the virtual dog, is making some old person happy, even if it’s a delusional kind of happy, we’re all for it. If it’s being used as a substitute for human attention, we’re not. With all the growth in and demands on senior services and facilities for the elderly, there’s a tendency to look for quick and easy shortcuts, when the keys to doing job right are already obvious — caring staff, ample staff, staff with hearts.
And maybe some dogs — real dogs.
What I’d rather see is not a nursing home where dozens of residents are lined up in wheelchairs, stroking animated images on their hand held devices, but one that’s taking advantage of programs — or even creating some — in which dog ownership among residents is encouraged, and assistance with those dogs is provided; ones where dogs live under communal ownership, or short of that, therapy dogs visit regularly; one that’s investing in building a qualified and caring staff, as opposed to investing in devices that substitute for real human, or dog, contact.
Here’s how the GeriJoy website touts the product: “Have an older loved one who is lonely and suffers from dementia or geriatric depression? GeriJoy can help. We provide talking pets that are intelligent, compassionate, and available 24/7 to talk about anything, including photos and updates from family.”
The virtual dog can be displayed on a computer or other Internet-connected device. The virtual dog, the website claims, ”provides all the availability and unconditional love of an adorable pet, combined with the ability to talk with true intelligence and compassion … It’s as if it lives inside a picture frame, so you get the benefits of pet therapy without any smells, allergies, cleaning up, bites, or food and veterinary bills.”
The virtual dog can provide around the clock stimulation, his developers say, and, in the video snippet above, GeriJoy certainly sounds stimulating, or stimulated, almost orgasmically so. “Oh, you’re so good,” GeriJoy coos as an elderly man strokes the image on the screen.
We’re not sure if that’s what GeriJoy told the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Healthy Aging Forum this month when he appeared before it. He’ll also be on exhibit at the AARP Health Innovation@50+ Tech Expo on May 31 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the AARP blog.
To get GeriJoy, one must subscribe, and pay from $99 to $129 a month. The hardware costs up to $349 for the most sophisticated, Internet-connected version.
GeriJoy was co-founded by Victor Wang, a former Canadian Army officer who did research on human-machine interaction for NASA while at MIT. He says he was inspired to develop the virtual dog by his grandmother in Taiwan, who became depressed while she was living alone.
Wang says GeriJoy can even serve as a watchdog. In one case, a user’s human caregiver was being verbally abusive, and GeriJoy “contacted the user’s daughter to let her know about it.”
“Whatever your loved one wants to know, the companion can find out and report back,” the website says. “It can send and receive messages and photos between you and your loved one, also via the Internet. All this is done through the intuitive metaphor of a talking dog. Your loved one doesn’t even need to know what a computer is.”
We don’t care if the day comes when a virtual dog can cook dinner, push a wheelchair, administer medications or help you understand your health insurance.
A real dog is better — even with his shedding and drooling. Real dogs bring one into, and keep one in, the moment. Real dogs can help you keep a grip on reality, as opposed to pulling you into fantasy land. And real dogs offer a true form of love and validation — even if they can’t say, at least with words, “Oh, you are so good.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aarp, aging, animals, animated, app, assisted living, computer, dementia, dog, dogs, elderly, gerijoy, health, image, internet, memory, mit, nursing homes, pets, talking, technology, unconditional love, virtual, virtual dog
Here’s another silly app my dog and I can live without.
Fujitsu Ltd., a Japanese company, is launching a “pet management service” that allows dog owners to monitor on their cellphones their dogs’ every step, their stress levels, and even the surrounding temperature.
The electronics company calls the product Wandant — a combination of “wan wan” (a Japanese term for dog) and the word “pendant,” which is what the monitored dog wears around its neck to transmit the information via the Internet.
It’s about half an ounce and the size of a business card.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “the service is another step in Japan’s long-running fascination in better understanding their pets.”
Though not quite as far-fetched as “Bowlingual,” touted by toy company Takara as a dog-to-human translation device, Wandant, claims it can provide dog owners with a series of graphs showing everything from how many steps a dog has taken to when he’s feeling itchy.
“Consumers can also manually add information such as how much food the dog ate or when it went to the bathroom to help manage its weight, while also keeping a daily diary of that day’s activities,” according to the WSJ report.
Customers can use their Android smartphones — its’ not yet available as an iPhone app — to check their dog’s up-to-the-minute profile.
The company described the motivations for making product in a press release:
“Given the demographic shifts in modern Japan, where there are fewer children and more people living longer, as well as a growing number of single-member households, pets have become increasingly important as family members and companions … The aging of pets and their care, as well as problems such as obesity, are becoming increasingly prominent issues. In response, Fujitsu developed the Wandant-based cloud service to support health monitoring in dogs.”
It went on the market Wednesday, but only in Japan.
(Photos: From Fujitsu’s website)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, animals, app, apps, cloud, collar, conditions, device, dog, dogs, fujitsu, graphs, internet, iphone, itchy, japan, japanese, monitor, owners, pedometer, pendant, pets, smartphone, steps, stress, technology, temperature, wandant, worn
Having drawn my line in the technogical sand — though it’s subject to being moved — I am managing to get through life for now without texting, or using any mobile apps at all.
But I’ll admit I sometimes wonder what — other than being annoyed more often — I’m missing out on.
If this app is any indication, not much.
“Ever wondered just what your pet would look like as a baby?” read a press release sent to ohmidog! “Well wonder no more.”
Now, thanks to a new app called Petbaby, we can turn a picture of our dog into one of what he or she would have looked like had he or she been born human.
According to the press release, the new cellphone app allows you to “take a photo of your favourite furry friend and turn it into a little human with the simple click of a button! Whether your pet is a dog, cat or even a rabbit bring your pet to life with Petbaby!!”
I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, or what we’re supposed to do with the finished product. Frame a copy for our desk at the office? Use it on our Christmas cards? Nor do I understand why Petbaby thinks our dogs, already pretty lively, have to be transformed into humans to be “brought to life.”
Merging animals and humans has a long history, most of which, fortunately, is in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and now apps. Let’s hope — in a world where dogs are being cloned, where human “furries” dress up and pretend to be animals at conventions, where technology has a way of trampling right over reason — it stays there.
Because the result of such morphing — even if it’s just taking place on your iPhone — is creepy.
Even Fierce Mobile Content, a website that keeps up with apps, named Petbaby a “worst entertainment app,” called it “an exercise in extreme stupidity,” and noted in its review the parallels to Dr. Moreau, the fictional mad doctor who created new beings from vivisected animals:
“There’s nothing cute or cuddly about slapping Fido’s eyes and snout on a random baby’s head. In fact, if you saw some half-infant/half-schnauzer mutant on the street, you’d kill it with fire and not a jury in the land would convict you. Babies? Cute. Dogs? Even cuter. But Pet Baby? Ugh. It’s the most warped photo-warping app on the market.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, animals, app, apps, babies, cellphone, cloning, dogs, furbabies, furries, humans, iphone, morphing, pet baby, petbaby, pets, photos, technology, warping
DEVO’s Jerry Casale has released, “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro,” a song that mocks Mitt Romney for strapping his Irish setter, in a crate, to the roof of his car on a family vacation trip.
The new single, subtitled “Seamus Unleashed,” was written by Casale and will be released in conjunction with a game app titled The Crate Escape: Seamus Unleashed.
The song and the game will launch August 26, which is both National Dog Day and the day before the Republican National Convention.
In releasing the single, DEVO joined forces with Dogs Against Romney, an online advocacy group with more than 70,000 members on Facebook, to help call attention to Mitt Romney’s “crate-gate” scandal.
Have a listen:
“I can’t overstate how excited we are to have DEVO’s Gerald Casale as a partner with us in making sure every voter in America knows Mitt Romney strapped his dog, Seamus, to the roof of his car for a 12-hour trip to Canada,” said Scott Crider, founder of Dogs Against Romney. “The new DEVO song Gerald created with his bandmates is awesome, and I believe it will be the soundtrack for Romney’s defeat in November.”
DEVO recorded the song as an anthem for pet lovers and as a message to others to never forget what happened to Seamus in 1983, when the Romneys drove from Boston to Ontario with the dog crated on the roof of their station wagon.
The single will be available at all digital music retailers; the game is initially being launched as an app on iTunes.
“We are delighted to have a new DEVO song as part of our game’s offering,” said Andy Berryman, chief marketing officer for Censault, LLC, the game’s developer. “It’s exciting to break new ground in the mobile/social gaming space – first as a game that is both fun to play and promotes a positive social message, and now as a new distribution medium for popular music.”
More info on the game can be found at www.facebook.com/CrateEscapeGame.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Casale, who has raised funds for Obama in Akron through a DEVO performance, said of Romney’s nearly 30-year-old mistake, ”It’s just a deal-breaker about the man … What you want in a leader is a guy with some humanity at his core … I think any animal lover that hears the story will learn so much about the character flaw of Romney.”
DEVO may include the song in its act when it tours America this fall with Blondie, he said.
While the song may or may not become the 1970′s-80′s-era band’s first hit in a long, long time, it has already gotten off to a better start than my suggestion for a Seamus song, a reworking of the Pink Floyd tune of the same name.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, app, campaign, canada, car, censault, crate, crate gate, devo, dog, dogs, dogs against romney, don't roof rack me bro, game, ipad, irish setter, jerry casale, listen, mitt romney, pets, politics, presidency, president, presidential, preview, released, ride, romney, roof, scott crider, seamus, seamus unleashed, single, song, the crate escape, vacation
According to Klooff, what I need to do is get a golden retriever, or a Siberian husky, or a French bulldog — and then just wait for women to line up in hopes of dating me.
Based on findings in a survey conducted by Klooff, a new iPhone app for pet lovers, those are among the dog breeds that best attract women.
“Pets are great for lots of different things; for companionship, for fun romps at the park, and even for getting a date,” said Alejandro Russo, co-founder of Klooff. “That’s why we built Klooff, so people can express themselves through their pets. And possibly even find a little romance while at it.”
I find it revolting — maybe not Klooff itself, but this particular avenue the humans behind the app have chosen in a quest for publicity.
It’s dogsploitation at its worst. It reduces dog to an accessory — one that can help you “express yourself” and get you dates. It makes dogs the equivalent of those Axe products that purport to attract women, like flies to dog poop.
If the main reason you are getting a dog is to attract humans of the gender you are seeking — be it for a date or a long-term relationship — don’t get a dog.
If you are getting a dog for other reasons, but want to factor in which breed would serve you best as you go about your courting and woo-pitching, don’t get a dog.
If you think that a dog’s breed is all you need to know — that breed alone determines every facet of a dog’s personality and behavior, thereby making him 100 percent predictable — don’t get a dog, at least until you do a little more research.
Here’s a sample of their pun-laden press release:
Just what are the best breeds for singles?
It’s no secret that taking your dog for a walk during these upcoming dog days of summer is a great way to meet other singles, make a connection, and potentially land a hot date. But what dog breeds give men and women the best chance of getting a “leg up” on the competition in the “dog eat dog” world of dating and romance?
A new international poll on what goes on in one of the hottest singles scenes – at the dog park – suggests certain breeds are the “cat’s meow” in navigating the “ruff” world of dating, whereas others hinder their chances of success. The survey illuminates what types of dogs men and women should own to attract their next girlfriend, boyfriend, hookup, or soulmate…and which dogs to completely stay away from.
I will point out here that my dog Ace has gotten me dates — in fact, pretty much every date I’ve had in recent years. I would go so far to say that, while he smells much worse, he works much better than Axe deodorant, or body spray or hair styling products. But that’s an unexpected benefit, not the sole or even main reason he came into my home.
Although it was once the case, in today’s society most of us no longer choose dogs based on the work they can do for us – unless you are a shepherd, or a hunter, or a dog show ribbon seeker.
Today we choose them for companionship — for the love they bring into our homes, as opposed to the varmints they can chase away, or the potential suitors of our own species they might attract.
The Klooff app, though, is indicative of a mindset that still lingers – despite the evolution of dogs, despite the evolution of our thinking about them:
Looking at dogs solely in terms of what they can do for us.
The notion of getting a dog for the purpose of spicing up your romantic life is selfish — on par with ruining a pristine natural environment to feed your whims.
The notion that you should choose a dog based on how well its breed reportedly attracts humans of the gender you are seeking is equally unwise.
Klooff ranks breeds in terms of their ability to attract dates. The lists are based on a survey Klooff says is ”representative of 1,000 pet owners and non-owners.” It presents the results in countdown style:
The top dog breeds to attract men were:
2. Labrador Retrievers
1. Golden Retrievers
The top dog breeds to attract women were:
5. French Bulldogs
4. Siberian Huskies
3. Labrador Retrievers
2. Golden Retrievers
1. German Shepherds
Klooff is a newly launched mobile app that lets users create profiles for their pets, allowing them to upload pet photos and interact with other pet lovers, “and maybe make the dog park dating scene a little easier.”
According to Klooff, men who own retrievers are seen as “great dads,” men who own a Siberian Husky are seen as “manly,” and men who own bulldogs, boxers or Rottweilers are seen as “just a hook up.”
According to Klooff — and this is the one that bothers us most — the man who owns a pit bull or Rottweiler is seen as ”slimy” or “sketchy.”
Klooff calls their rankings “scientific.”
If you believe that, you probably own a Chihuahua.
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alejandro russo, animals, app, appeal, beagles, breeds, chihuahuas, dating, dating scene, dog, dog park, dogs, dumb, exploitation, french bulldog, gender, german shepherds, golden retrievers, iphone, klooff, love, mates, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, poodles, romance, sex, siberian huskies, sketchy, slimy, stereotypes
Animal rights activists are being blamed — though without much proof — for sabotaging the Android app “Dog Wars” by infecting it with a virus that sends out a message from the user’s cell phone to all of that user’s cell phone contacts.
“I take pleasure in hurting small animals, just thought you should know that,” the message reads.
PC Magazine reports that:
Upon installation, the Trojan launches a display icon that mimics the legitimate one: instead of “BETA,” it reads “PETA.” This syncs your device to PETA’s text messaging system. Symantec directed us to instructions on PETA’s website on how to remove yourself from this alert system.
Symantec, which first reported the malware, said it did not think it came from the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “It is more likely the work of someone attempting to associate the app with PETA or to gain sympathy by the association,” Symantec wrote.
PETA, other animal welfare organizations, and even Michael Vick, had criticized the app, in which players can vie to become big-time pretend dogfighters. It was subsequently removed from Google’s Android Market. It is still available from third party app markets and warez sites.
Developer Kage Productions countered the criticism by saying “It is JUST a video game … Just because something is illegal in real life does not mean it is illegal to make a song, movie, or video game about it.”
(Graphic from PC Magazine)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, app, applications, cell phone, dog wars, games, kage productions, malware, message, PC magazine, peta, symantec, virus
The app was released in response to Google’s Android app “Dog Wars,” which PETA says promotes illegal dogfighting by allowing users to participate in “a digital version of the cruel blood ‘sport.’”
PETA’s new app, available for free, is aimed at “mobilizing anyone who values compassion over cruelty to speak up not only for dogs who are maimed and killed in staged fights but also for animals who are abused on factory farms, in laboratories, and in circuses.”
PETA sugggests subscribers start putting it to use by urging Google to pull “Dog Wars” from the Android Marketplace.
“Dog Wars promotes felony cruelty to animals, plain and simple,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA’s new app allows iPhone users to employ consumer pressure to prevent dogs from being torn to shreds in dogfights and to nip other violent acts of abuse against animals in the bud.”
Users can participate in “action alerts” against specific products that cause animals to suffer as well as donate to PETA’s causes, all while earning points and badges. The more actions that users take, the higher their PETA rank will rise. Every alert is worth 10 points, and 10 additional points can be earned if the alert is shared on Facebook or Twitter.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: action, alerts, android, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, app, application, cruelty, dog fighting, dog wars, dogfighting, dogs, google, ipad, iphone, ipod, mobile, mobilizing, peta, pets, pit bulls
Has “Dog Wars” bitten the dust?
But those reports were apparently based solely on the dogfighting game app temporarily disappearing from the Android Marketplace, Google’s online store.
Like a bad case of hemorrhoids, it’s back.
Unconfirmed reports say the app was temporarily removed from Google’s online market over concerns about copyright infringement — as opposed to the formidable and still growing opposition being voiced about it by dog lovers and animal welfare organizations.
Developed by Kage Games, the free app allows players to train and fight pit bulls, accumulating money and “cred.”
It has been roundly criticized by, among others, the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, numerous state and local humane societies, actress Alicia Silverstone and football quarterback Michael Vick, who served 21 months in prison for operating a dogfighting ring.
The creators of Dog Wars, in response to criticism, have added some explanation to the Android Marketplace page on which the app is offered.
“We’ve heard thoughts from many dog and animal lovers about our app and first we, as dog owners and dog lovers ourselves, would like to thank you for your thoughts and for the work many of you do on behalf of our canine friends. We DO NOT CONDONE violence towards animals or humans, and we are confident in humankind’s ability to distinguish between a rudimentary game and the consequences of real life.
“We are confident this game will be a net benefit to dogs as it has been in our operating agreement from the start of this project that a portion of the proceeds go to animal rescue organizations. Further, this is a satire about the ridiculousness of dogfighting and we believe in the power of a modern media tool to educate and raise awareness of the real horrors.
“There are hundreds of games on the Google Android market as well as any other popular game platform which, if acted out in real life, would be illegal. What makes the Google Android platform special is it gives the freedom and responsibility to the individual users to decide what to put on their phones as opposed to the phone carriers and app stores making value judgments on our behalf … Please remember that censorship is a very slippery slope.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alicia silverstone, android marketplace, animal welfare, animals, app, application, censorship, complaints, dog fighting, dog wars, dogfighting, dogs, free speech, google, hsus, kage games, michael vick, opposition, peta, pets, video games
Opposition is mounting to the new game app “Dog Wars,” and among those speaking out is Michael Vick.
According to the NBC blog, Digital Life, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who served 21 months in jail for operating a dogfighting ring, released a statement, in conjuntion with the Humane Society of the United States, against the free app, now available as a free download through Google’s Android Market.
“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street. Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app,” Vick is quoted as saying in the statement.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added, “Android should drop ‘Dog Wars’ from its online market and join the national movement to save dogs from this violent practice. Because “Dog Wars” actually instructs players on how to condition a dog using methods that are standard in organized dogfighting, this game may be a virtual training ground for would-be dogfighters. Its timing and message are all wrong.”
Meanhile, a petition calling for the game’s removal from the marketplace has been launched at Change.org, the same open petition website on which 150,000 people signed a petition demanding Apple drop a “gay cure” game from its App store.
(Android is an open source operating system created by Google. While Google does not approve every app offered there, it does maintain a website where people can complain about objectionable content in games and apps. You can find it here.)
The Massachusetts SPCA also has spoken out against the dogfighting game app.
“Although illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, dog fighting remains a pervasive problem in America and is investigated inby the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department. Dog Wars is a sickening tool that can be used to recruit potential dogfighters about how to train future victims, perpetuate breed specific stereotypes, and undermine the many years of hard work that animal protection agencies, including the MSPCA-Angell, have contributed to ensure strong penalties against dog fighters and spectators,” said Carter Luke, MSPCA-Angell president
“In the past, dog fighting instruction remained underground; however this ‘game’ brings this knowledge to the mainstream public through a tool attractive to young game players. Similar to the Dog Wars application, real life trainers work to ensure a mean temperament in kind animals from puppyhood, subjecting the young animals to ongoing cruelty and neglect, including living without shelter, enduring bouts of starvation, and sustaining beatings. To improve stamina and muscle mass, trainers also impose exhausting treadmill exercises on their dogs and force them to wear heavy chains around their necks. Identical to Dog Wars, the dogs are fed steroids and stimulants to increase their aggression. Dogs who refuse to fight, or consistently lose, may be shot, hanged, drowned, or electrocuted by their trainers. To further promote viciousness, trainers bait their dogs with intentionally wounded dogs, puppies, cats, and other small animals.
“The training ground that Dog Wars provides has the potential to increase occurrences of animal cruelty as well as violence against humans. In a study performed by the MSPCA and Northeastern University we definitively discovered the correlation between those who abuse both animals and humans. Our research proved that those who abuse animals have the same psychological detachment as those who abuse humans and may harm animals after purposefully injuring people.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, animal welfare, app, carter luke, cruelty, dog wars, dogfight, dogfighting, game, google, hsus, humane society of the united states, michael vick, mspca, mspca-angell, pit bulls, society, video games, violence, wayne pacelle
Your dog may soon be tweeting.
Japan’s Index Corp., a mobile content provider, plans to launch an iPhone adaptation of the “Bowlingual” dog emotion translator that it says will translate dog barks into English and tweet them out to the world.
The original Bowlingual device, first offered in 2002 by Takara Tomy, consists of a microphone that goes around the dog’s neck and a handheld receiver with LCD screen that gives a written readout of the emotion a dog’s bark is expressing: sad, frustrated, needy, happy, on guard and “self-expressive.”
(That last one puzzles me. I wouldn’t consider it an emotion, and it seems any bark would be self expressive. Then again, maybe something is getting lost in translation.)
The Japanese company plans to launch the new iPhone app this summer, PCWorld reports.
Index is planning to charge $4.99 for the app, said Sonoko Tatsuno, a spokeswoman for the company in Tokyo — considerably cheaper than the $229 stand-alone version. A Japanese version of the new app will come out first, followed by an English version.
In addition to translating a dog’s bark, the software can capture a picture of the dog, using the iPhone’s built-in camera. The resulting picture can then be combined with the “translation” and sent directly from the iPhone to Twitter.
The original product proved to be a hit in Japan selling around 300,000 units, It was also put on sale in the U.S. and South Korea.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 10th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, ap, app, application, barks, bowlingual, device, dog, dogs, emotions, frustrated, happy, index corp. takara tomy, iphone, japan, japanese, needy, networking, on guard, pets, sad, social, technology, translate, translator, tweet, tweeting, twitter