Morf, an Australian startup, is releasing today Moji IM, a multi-IM client that works on the major IM networks (like Trillian does), but with with a twist: The software will display a 3D, animated, virtual "pet" alongside the chat window. The pet will discern your mood based on the text you're typing, and change its behavior to match. In other words, if you are saying happy things, you pet will bounce and prance around. If you're complaining, it will sulk. Update: Morf will not be releasing the Moji IM client today, after all. The company is going to take the weekend to do more development.
If you're communicating with someone who's also using the Moji IM client, then you'll be able to see their pet frolicking (or not) in the IM client's space, and your correspondent will see yours. They'll interact, in fact.
Morf CEO Robert Fong told me that the little petlings will also try to make themselves helpful. When you're not around to talk on IM, they can answer for you, and what they'll say will depend on what you've been saying recently. For example, if you've been chatting about movies, the pet/bot might say, "I guess he's at the movies," when someone IMs you.
Useful? I don't think so. Dangerous? Definitely. If I spend a lot of time IMing my friends about parties and debauchery, I sure don't want my bot to tell my boss, "Sorry, Rafe's likely boozing it up," when he tries to get in touch.
On the other hand, Morf will also have a kid-safe version of its client, which can shut things down when it discerns that one of the participants is sounding more like a predator than another kid.
I'll give this gizmo a shot once I have a chance to download it, later today. I've tried another Morf product that uses this technology already on my test blog: It's a widget that reflects your mood based on what you've written lately. It works on Blogger, MySpace, and Xanga. Doesn't float my boat, but I can see it being big on MySpace.
See also: Meebo.