Tardigotchi: hybrid real/virtual pet

Paul Raven @ 30-07-2010

Readers of a certain age will remember the tamagotchi virtual pet craze of the late nineties, though they (like me) may be surprised to know they’re still selling strongly. Furthermore, readers who follow Futurismic closely (which is all of you, AMIRITES?) may remember me mentioning tardigrades, the microscopic critters better known as “water bears”, which bear (arf!) the odd distinction of being the only animal known to be able to survive the hard vacuum of space. What’s the connection?

The connection is the Tardigotchi, a sort of po-mo mixed-media art-project-gadget-statement-commentary item that combines a real living water bear with an artificial electronic lifeform to create a hybrid cyborg pet that can (and must!) be interacted with in a variety of ways to ensure its survival. Observe:

What does it mean? I guess that’s open to interpretation… an expression of the blurring of the line between natural and artificial lifeforms, and our relationship to them? A recognition of our increasingly emotional relationship with (and dependence on) electronic devices? Or just a wacky 3am brainstorm idea that made it into production?

(Water) bears… in… spaaaaace!

Paul Raven @ 09-09-2008

water bear (tardigrade)Maybe you took that recent opportunity to determine how long you personally would survive in the hard cold vacuum of space, but it’s a very safe bet that you didn’t rack up a whole ten days. [image from Wikimedia Commons]

That particular accolade goes to the tiny invertebrate animals known as “water bears” (or more correctly tardigrades). Examples of two species of the little critters were launched from Kazakhstan in a satellite and subsequently exposed to the vacuum for ten days, after which 68% were successfully rehydrated and went on to live exactly as normal. It appears they can take the vacuum in their stride, though the UV radiation is a bit of a problem.

I wonder if sea monkeys can survive in space? I remember my mum telling me that mine had to go away while I’d been at school… perhaps they went to catch a rocket in Kazakhstan? 🙁