by Jessica Medina
Have You Heard of the Wiglets? Well, if you haven’t yet, I am very glad you are reading this blog! The Wiglets are a cheeky bunch of animated, autonomous creatures from the head honchos at Wiggle Planet. Who the heck is Wiggle Planet? They are an innovative technological character animation company based in Petaluma, CA focused on implementing augmented reality technology into educational games for people of all ages.
The Wiglets are a curious species that evolved from a desire to create a kind of self-animated creature that can be used in mobile games, interactive books, and other media where surprise, novelty, and humor are welcome ingredients. The Wiglets are making their debut in a set of simple toy apps available in the Apple Store (download Peck Peck’s Garden, Flip Flop Dance Jam, and Gene Pool here – they’re free! )
The folks at Wiggle Planet are creating a new type of gameplay that combines elements of augmented reality with independent, artificially intelligent creatures.
Is this sounding like techy doublespeak that doesn’t make sense? Yes, I know, please forgive me. Wiggle Planet is 100% nerd. I will try to break it down into less confusing terms.
The fact that the Wiglets are independent, artificially intelligent creatures simply means that they have minds of their own. Their creators are not controlling their actions. Sound scary? It’s not really, I promise. It just means Wiglets can be somewhat unpredictable. Therefore, they would be frustrating to work with for game-designers with control-issues :) You might think of Wiglets as a new kind of cartoon character that lives in the context of real time and space. A Wiglet is a Wiglet no matter where it lives. A Wiglet does what it wants – so go with the flow, and you may be surprised and delighted!
“Self-animation” is an idea that’s as old as Dr. Frankenstein. It’s not a new idea. But a new scientific discipline was born in the 80’s called artificial life, when biologists, computer scientists, philosophers, artists, and robot-makers began meeting together and exchanging ideas. Artificial life has been making its way into games ever sense, but Wiggle Planet is promising to take it farther.
And what is augmented reality? Augmented reality is a technology that enables us to project a computer generated image onto a real-world backdrop. An example would be holding your smartphone in front of a background like a dollar bill, then seeing a Wiglet walk around on the dollar bill through your smartphone screen. It’s pretty cool and futuristic. Check out the picture at left of a wiglet boppin’ around on a picture. This picture happens to be siting on the window of an airplane at 30,000 feet! Imagine the possibilities! Eat breakfast with a Wiglet sitting next to you, go to work with a Wiglet on your shoulder, snuggle with a Wiglet as you’re going to sleep – alright, that last one might be a little creepy.
Another fun fact about Wiglets: they are not created by artists or animators. The Wiglets come to be solely through virtual genetics and breeding, completely through software. This is what gives them their quirky appearance.
When all is said and done the best way to understand a Wiglet is to watch one in action. Please check out wiggleplanet.com and look at the videos, or better yet…download their fun (free) apps!