Contest Seeks Purrrfect iPad Game for Cats
Google hooked up 16,000 computers so that they could learn to identify cats in YouTube videos (like this one).
Apple markets the iPad as intuitive enough for small children, elderly relatives and tech neophytes.
But what about cats?
Apparently, Apple's tablet is so simple that even felines can use it, and they like to. The iPad cat game genre is a growing business, so much so that Purina, maker of Friskies cat food, is offering $15,000 to the programmer who can capture a cat's attention even better than a laser pointer and a white wall.
Tablet games for cats are still a relatively new phenomenon, but Purina wants to stay on top of the trend. The company has already developed eight cat-centric games for iOS, with Android or online versions for five of them. One title, "You vs. Cat," even invites you to compete with your furry friend in an item-flinging contest. Currently, cats dominate the leaderboards.
To encourage more titles, Purina will host the first-ever Games for Cats Hackathon in Venice Beach, Calif., on March 23-24. Enterprising programmers can register now to spend all day Saturday and a half-day Sunday designing an app, start to finish, with housecats in mind. Although it costs $20 to enter, the event will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is a better deal than you can get just about anywhere else in Los Angeles.
Apps for cats tend to be simple in scope, and mimic activities that domestic cats enjoy in real life. "CatFishing" displays a goldfish swimming just below the "surface" of the tablet's screen, producing ripples as the cat moves its paw around. "Happy Wings" presents a similar idea, allowing cats to bat around moths, tallying their score as they do. [See also: 9 Ways to Keep Your iPad Secure]
In the 100-plus videos cat owners have posted of their companions playing Purina's games, one of the most common questions is whether the cat's claws will scratch the tablet screen. "We've found that the … glass screen on the iPad stands up to our cat's claws with no problems, but please be aware that a cat's sharp claws could damage add-on plastic film 'screen protectors,'" writes a Purina representative on the contest's official site. "Kind of ironic, wouldn't you say?"
Programmers who design the second- and third-best cat apps will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. The panel of judges is still to be selected, but don't be surprised if it includes both human software experts and feline players, all with very discerning tastes.
This contest could provide a good opportunity for budding programmers to show their ideas, but it also raises an important question: Are cats easily amused for liking these simple apps, or are humans easily amused for constantly watching them?