Windup Minds is a newly announced XR studio which has raised a $1.6 million seed investment for immersive experiences focused on virtual pets and companions.
Windup Minds was founded earlier this year by Bernard Yee, Ben Vance, Amy Conchie, and Stefani Swiatkowski. The quartet of seasoned VR developers have collectively worked at Oculus, WeVR, Microsoft, EA, and more, with works under their belt like Oculus demo projects Bogo, Toy Box, and First Steps, along with mainstream gaming projects like Destiny, Plants vs. Zombies, and Dishonored.
The quartet announced this week it raised $1.6 million in seed funding to get the “remote-first” studio Windup Minds off the ground. The seed investment was led by the Venture Reality Fund, Acequia Capital, and New Leaf Ventures, with participation by Nate Mitchell (founder, Oculus), Eden Chen (founder, Pragma; Riot Games), James Gwertzman (founder, Playfab; PopCap/EA), Tom Sanocki (Oculus; Pixar), Greg Essig (Apple), and Anthony Batt (Outsider DAO).
The studio says it plans to launch a “virtual creature experience for mixed and virtual reality platforms,” indicating a focus on pet-like virtual companions. The studio believes the combination of immersive XR and modern AI can create virtual companions that feel more real than any that have existed to date.
“The medium of XR is uniquely capable of building emotional connections with characters as vibrant and three-dimensional as any pet. when we built Dreamdeck [an early Oculus demo experience] for Mark [Zuckerberg] and Brendan [Iribe] to announce the Rift headset at the first Oculus Connect, we saw players tear their prototype headsets off when our T-Rex came towards them,” says co-founder Bernard Yee. “They intellectually knew they were in a little demo cubicle, but their instinctual brains told them ‘there’s a dinosaur in the room with you.’ VR and MR can make you feel like your digital pet is real—and no other medium can do this.”
The studio hasn’t indicated when they plan to announce or launch their first experience.