What is Tardigotchi?
Tardigotchi is an artwork featuring two pets: a living organism and an alife avatar. These two disparate beings find themselves the unlikely denizens of a portable computing enclosure. The main body for this enclosure is a brass sphere, housing the alife avatar in an LED screen and the tardigrade within a prepared slide. A tardigrade is a common microorganism measuring half a millimeter in length. The alife avatar is a caricature of this tardigrade, its behaviour is partially autonomous, but it also reflects a considerable amount of expression directly from the tardigrade’s activities (like eating).
This portable sphere playfully references the famous Tamagotchi toy from the 1990’s. What is interesting about this toy, is how it popularly encourages pet-owner behaviour through a device that is ostensibly more like a cell phone than a Chartreux. Does simple interaction engender emotional attachment? Can feelings of affection blossom from the ritual of assisting the persistence of a pattern? Does biological life make a difference?
A Tardigotchi owner tends to a real and a virtual creature simultaneously. By pushing a button, the virtual pet is fed, which in turn will feed the tardigrade. Tardigotchi has a social web presence: sending an email to the virtual character triggers a heating lamp, relaying a momentary signal of warmth to the tardigrade, while prompting the pixelated tardigrade to recline and soak up animated sun rays. Tardigotchi applies a salve to our yearnings for care and nurture through a unique design that symbiotically merges biological and artificial life within a single interface/enclosure. It also serves as a reminder for the special place humans have in communing with other animals, perhaps equally for artificial ones. We, along with the inhabitants of Tardigotchi, and every other living being, are neighbors subsisting on an incredibly precarious life-sphere known as Earth.