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Cat cat revolution: An interspecies gaming experience

Noz, F. and An, J. (2011) Cat cat revolution: An interspecies gaming experience. Proc. of the 29th International Conference, Human Factors in Computing Systems (Vancouver, BC, CA, May 7-12). ACM, New York.

This paper reviews the design principles and research methods used to develop the game Cat Cat Revolution. In this paper Noz and An state that the development of the work if embedded in the development of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence rather than principles of HCI. However there are a number of sections of the paper which allude to a user-centred design approach being adopted, and the paper highlights some important design considerations when developing inter-species games.

There is substantial research given to the sociological and psychological study of pet owners to inform the development of the work, and the paper cites a number of key sources in the study of inter-species communication such as Sanders, Jerolmack, Cerulo et al (I have added the most interesting/reliant to the further readings section below). The section “Sociological Study of Human-Pet Play” reads;

“In the past 20 years, sociologists have begun to study human-pet play interactions. Alger’s work suggests that owners actively assume the role of animals, and infer thoughts and feelings from the animal’s perspective [2]. Sanders suggests that projecting human capabilities onto pets makes them legitimate participants in social interaction [15]. In addition, sociologists offer insights on how owners and pets use nonverbal communication to negotiate social order and interspecies interaction. Researchers suggests that humans and pets rely on their past play experiences, or a shared history of symbolic behavior, to non-verbally communicate [2, 4]. Ethnographic studies of human-animal play reflect on the intersubjectivity between participants [9, 11]. For example, Goode proposes that pets have an asymmetrical availability to interpret interaction [9]. Findings from Jerolmack’s work suggest that human-pet play does not require shared meanings and/or intentions to coordinate interaction [11]. Other scholars [4, 11] do not view shared language as a prerequisite for intersubjectivity, instead, they view humanpet intersubjectivity along a continuum, ranging from shared understanding to a simple shared awareness of an object. The sociological study of human-pet play offers insights into the social interactions that allow owners and pets to negotiate and co-construct play experiences.” (p. 2662)

The study points to to an important design consideration in the development of species appropriate designs, which is oddly rare in the studies covered so far. Noz and An highlight the difference in the way that cats see colour (drawing on the work of Loop, Millican and Thomas 1987), which i have alluded to in the submission to TRACE.

Useful Quotes

“we designed the interface to accommodate audio, visual, and touch interactions from human and cat participants. For example, we designed a deictic [12] mouse representation to communicate digital interactions in a species appropriate, understandable, and actionable manner. We designed the mouse to entice cats to chase while catering to the human-centric model of the mouse as an input device. The interface appropriates a popular chase object, the mouse, and anchors the cat’s interaction to natural chase behaviors, allowing felines to chase and paw during the game.” (p. 2662)

” we designed the interface to support cat’s color acuity. Cats are generally colorblind when it comes to red, but have excellent ability to distinguish blue and green. [13]. Early prototypes tested combinations of mouse color, size, brightness, and movement to bolster target discrimination and tracking on the display. The mouse squeaks when hit to provide audio feedback to participants. Audio testing ensured feedback did not frighten or discourage play” (p. 2662)

“participants indicated that play was an important interaction with their cats and characterized CCR as a “fun” and mutually “beneficial” play experience. In addition, pet owners attributed a number of benefits to pet ownership including: mental well-being and therapeutic effects, freedom to be playful, feeling content, and felt play was good for the cat. ” (p. 2663)

“CCR appeared to create new opportunities for owners to socially construct and deconstruct interspecies boundaries with their pet. By endowing pets with human capacities, we suggest that owners may cast their pets as viable participants in the digital gaming experience.” (p. 2663)

“In digital gaming, it is not important whether the pet has human capabilities; rather, what is important is whether owners act as if their pets have the capacity to do so.” (p. 2663)

“We designed CCR around existing human-pet play interactions to support play experiences. CCR accommodates asymmetrical relationships by coordinating interaction around a simple and species appropriate gaming experience.” (p. 2663)

“CCR’s design was inspired by three “New AI” challenges including: placing participants “in the loop,” allowing participants to interpret and interact with the system, and participating in the context of play. For example, the deictic mouse representation communicates state in actionable ways and elicited specific behavioral interactions from both participants.” (p. 2663)

“we suggest the minimalist design accommodates unplanned play interactions by relying on the participants’ ability to actively reconstitute play dynamics.” (p. 2664)

“participants rely on context and extra-system knowledge to create meaningful play interactions.” (p. 2664)

“The examples above explore how participants actively negotiated play interactions, despite their asymmetrical ability to share or coordinate interaction, and reflect the constitutive nature of human-pet play. The game allows participants to co-construct play experiences by exploiting the contextual and social dynamics of human pet play.” (p. 2664)

Further Reading

Cerulo, K. A. “Nonhumans in Social Interaction.” Annu. Rev. Sociol. 35 (2009), 531-552.

Goode, D. (2007) Playing with My Dog, Kate: An Ethnomethodological Study of Canine-human Interaction. Purdue University Press

Irvine, L. (2004) If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection with Animals.

Jerolmack, C. (2009) Humans, Animals, and Play: Theorizing Interaction When Intersubjectivity is Problematic. Sociological Theory 27.4 .

Loop, M.S., Millican, L.C., and Thomas, S.R. (1987) “Photopic spectral sensitivity of the cat.” J. Physiol. 382

Teh, K. S., Lee, S. P., and Cheok, A. D. (2006) “Poultry. Internet: a remote human-pet interaction system.” In Extended abstracts of CHI ’06, ACM Press, 251-254

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