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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Raising digital pets in VR just got a little bit cuter

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Raising digital pets in VR just got a little bit cuter

Growing up with cats, I was left with the best parts of raising them. Specifically, the non-cleaning-up-after-them bits. They’d choose my room for napping and would relax on my lap as I studied, read books, or played games. When they were in the mood for playing, they’d come “annoy” me. (But it wasn’t really annoying when I always had a red laser pointer prepared, ready to watch them scramble around the room.)

In videogames, my love for the easier parts of raising pets carried over, and found itself cemented in the Chao gardens of Sonic Adventure 2 (2001). Shadow would scoff a “hmph” as he pet his evil little buddies, and Sonic would act as the more cheerful, encouraging surrogate parent. I was always somewhere in between with my own cats.

I've always wanted to take my cat to the beach.
I’ve always wanted to take my cat to the beach, I guess.

In Konrad the Kitten, a new virtual reality project from developer Konrad Kunze, the player takes care of their own adorable virtual kitten. The catch? The HTC Vive controller is encouraged to be attached to a plush toy to take the experience further. Sure, the player won’t be petting a real life cat—it might as well be my plush Rover from Animal Crossing, or my oversized shark pal from IKEA—but that’s besides the point. Konrad the Kitten wants play in virtual reality to extend beyond the digital realm, and find footing in our physical one. To do that, it needs actual toys.

Extending play in virtual reality beyond the digital realm

Konrad the Kitten’s kitten-raising simulation is as easy as it can get—much like the “raising” I did as a kid. With the Vive controller attached to the the plush toy, where Kunze’s example features a cat not too different from the one in-game, the player’s interaction is resigned to mere lifting and moving the plush cat. No buttons needed. It’s up to the player to satisfy Konrad’s 12 daily needs, and doing so unlocks a number of other objects, areas for Konrad to reside, and even the occasional minigame.

Konrad, ready for some real world petting.
Konrad, ready for some real world petting.

Konrad the Kitten is a virtual reality experience born out of love. “With an HTC Vive and a passion for making videogames, I decided to do something special for my girlfriend for our anniversary,” writes Kunze in the Steam description for the game’s Early Access page. “Because of her love for cats and an idea of tracking a real plush toy in a virtual environment, the idea of creating a virtual cat was born.” Kunze busily worked at finishing the anniversary present in evenings, where he eventually had the thought of releasing a public version. One for cat lovers everywhere.

You can download Konrad the Kitten while it’s in Early Access on Steam right now for only $9.99, it’s prrrrrific.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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