The virtual pet craze that started with the Tamagotchi is entering a new era with virtual reality, and leading the charge is a new project that aims to give you very own virtual cat, it’s called Konrad the Kitten and it uses SteamVR’s lighthouse technology to track a plush toy for a fairly unique, if somewhat amusing, VR experience.
Most Vive games don’t ask you to strap your controller to a stuffed animal, but this is part of what makes Konrad the Kitten so unique. Konrad the Kitten is a pet simulator for the HTC Vive that attaches a virtual model of an adorable kitten on your controllerm mapping it’s position to the SteamVR controller. To interact with the kitten, you move it around a handful of virtual environments and set it down next to interactive objects like scratching posts and balls of yarn.
The title uses one Vive controller and because that controller is attached to the real-world plush toy, there isn’t anything that tracks your hands. This wasn’t as problematic as I thought it would be because, thanks to Proprioception (the sense of innate awareness the mind has of your arms, legs and hands etc.), the body does a pretty good job of tracking hand positions by itself. As an added bonus this means your hands and fingers are completely free to hold your cat stand-in just like a real one. While this unusual setup works for what the game is trying to achieve, it’s still one more reason for Valve to make good on its promise to open up its Lighthouse tracking system for third-parties.
Despite the comedy inherent in this type of project (a plush toy with a big SteamVR controller strapped to its back is just funny), it is yet another interesting divergent arena for VR. That said, I can’t help feel it’s augmented reality where virtual pets will come into their own. Imagine donning your Magic Leap visor and being greeted warmly by your collection of exotic pets, mapped convincingly to your real world environment – that would be quite something.
Konrad the Kitten popped up on Steam Greenlight in May, and is still far from a finished product, but developer at KK-Soft, Konrad Kunze, hopes to have it available on Steam Early Access in a couple of months.