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SPECIAL MILLENNIUM ISSUE / HOME & DESIGN | C NOTES:
So Cal at the Turn of the Century

Bark Versus Byte

May 16, 1999|sJason Dietrich

Imagine a Chihuahua who can beat you at chess. Computer-based virtual pets may not be cuddly, but soon they may be able to scare away burglars, retrieve an electronic newspaper and play virtual fetch. Best of all, no walks, no housebreaking and no chewed slippers.

"Virtual life" today is limited to hand-held toys that house needy digital personalities--remember the Tamagotchi craze?--or virtual aquarium CD-ROMs to stock your computer monitor screen with fish that will indeed go belly up without care.

In the house of the future, multiple flat screen wall monitors will be de rigueur, says virtual life pioneer Ron Dicarlantonio of the Toronto-based company 9003inc. That means a virtual Sparky will greet his owner at the door and move from screen to screen to faithfully follow him or her around the house. Not only a virtual companion, Sparky can also help run the house's technology by following simple voice commands: "Sparky, cue up 'The Simpsons'!"

"[The pets] know the insides of the computers better than anyone," Dicarlantonio says, "because they live there."

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