Nintendogs Teach Us New Tricks

Nintendogs Teach Us New Tricks: "Me, I think the appeal is much subtler -- and weirder. If we love Nintendogs, it's not merely because they're so adorable. It's that they're so needy.

The puppies are -- like many virtual life forms, from Tamigotchis to The Sims -- a rather helpless breed. You have to carefully monitor their hunger and thirst; when you're out for a walk, you have to shoo them away from street garbage so they won't eat it. Leave your puppy unattended for long enough and it'll become so filthy and distressed that it'll run away.

As it turns out, we're suckers for babysitting. Sherry Turkle -- the digital-age pundit and author of Life on the Screen -- has been researching the relationship between robots and people. She's discovered that the most popular robots are, unexpectedly, the ones that demand we take care of them. They trigger our nurturing impulses, the same ones we deploy toward infants, the elderly or any other vulnerable creature."

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