The newly unveiled startup Windup Minds is made up of well-known talent working on AI-powered virtual companions for the mixed reality age.
The team includes developers with experience at companies as diverse as Oculus, Magic Leap, Niantic, Wevr, EA, 17-Bit, PopCap, Harmonix, Looking Glass, and Bungie. They include the creative minds behind many of the classic Oculus demos and tutorials such as Dreamdeck, Farlands, Toybox, Bogo, First Steps, and First Contact.
The studio came out of stealth mode this week, announcing the closing of $1.6 million in pre-seed funding. The startup plans to use the funding to develop new games and experiences around virtual creatures and pets for virtual and mixed reality.
Windup Minds was founded in June 2023 by Bernard Yee, Ben Vance, Amy Conchie and Stefani Swiatkowski. Investors include The Venture Reality Fund, Acequia Capital, New Leaf Ventures as well as Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell, Eden Chen, James Gwertzman, Tom Sanocki, Greg Essig and Anthony Batt.
A next generation pet simulation
The studio has only hinted at what it’s working on: a realistic AI-powered pet simulation inspired by Tamagotchis, Sony’s robotic dog Aibo, and Nintendogs, but more complex and believable.
“Modern game AI is capable of engagement and responsiveness far beyond what Tamagotchi offered, and modern game engines can deliver performances far more nuanced than Sony’s robot dog—but until now, a truly believable pet sim was missing something.” Windup Minds writes. That missing element is VR and MR. The startup believes the technology can help build stronger emotional connections with virtual characters.