Windup Minds, a newly announced XR studio, has secured a $1.6 million seed investment to develop immersive experiences centered around virtual pets and companions. The studio was founded earlier this year by experienced VR developers Bernard Yee, Ben Vance, Amy Conchie, and Stefani Swiatkowski, who have collectively worked at major companies such as Oculus, WeVR, Microsoft, and EA. Their portfolio includes notable projects like Oculus' Bogo, Toy Box, and First Steps, as well as mainstream games like Destiny, Plants vs. Zombies, and Dishonored.
The $1.6 million seed funding round was led by Venture Reality Fund, Acequia Capital, and New Leaf Ventures. Prominent investors like Nate Mitchell (Oculus founder), Eden Chen (Pragma; Riot Games founder), James Gwertzman (Playfab; PopCap/EA founder), Tom Sanocki (Oculus; Pixar), Greg Essig (Apple), and Anthony Batt (Outsider DAO) also participated in the investment.
Windup Minds aims to create a “virtual creature experience for mixed and virtual reality platforms,” with a particular emphasis on pet-like virtual companions. The studio believes that by combining immersive XR technology and advanced AI, they can develop virtual companions that feel more authentic than any previous iterations.
Co-founder Bernard Yee explains, “The medium of XR is uniquely capable of building emotional connections with characters as vibrant and three-dimensional as any pet. VR and MR can make you feel like your digital pet is real—and no other medium can do this.” Yee cites an early Oculus demo experience, Dreamdeck, where players would instinctively react to virtual dinosaurs approaching them, despite knowing they were in a controlled environment.
Despite not providing a specific timeline, Windup Minds has revealed their intention to launch their first experience in the near future. With their combined expertise and substantial seed funding, the studio is poised to venture into the realm of immersive virtual pet experiences, tapping into the potential of XR technology and AI advancements.