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The Digital Pets Company said it is launching AI-driven 3D digital dogs as companions for the metaverse.
The dogs will be secured as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which can be used to authenticate unique digital items. It’s the antidote to NFT cats, which another game startup, Tiny Rebel Games, announced in March with the goal of creating digital cats. Both companies are confident that the concept of Nintendogs will work well with NFTs.
To commercialize its technology, The Digital Pets Company has raised pre-seed funding from Outlier Ventures, Hawk Digital, MaxStealth and the angel investor Rafi Gidron, who started Chromatis and sold it to Lucent for $4.8 billion. The startup is holding discussions with additional potential investors.
The interoperable persistent-state digital companions will enable owners to interact with them, across virtual reality worlds, augmented reality, mobile devices, or web apps.
Combining AI, extended reality (XR) and blockchain technologies, the company is creating a continuous two-way emotional relationship with a virtual being across virtual environments, apps, and games. Each dog is unique in its appearance and personality, powered by the startup’s proprietary PetOS technology.
The company’s mission is to create lifelike interactions using voice, visual, and touch communication to allow people to interact with their Digital Dogs in the same way as their physical pets. They can give them a name, train them, and play with other people and their digital dogs when they meet.
All the Digital Dogs, along with their visual and personality traits, are secured as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. Each NFT will belong to one digital wallet owned by a specific user. The startup’s unique blockchain implementation enables users to care for the Digital Dog and train it together with other users, such as family members and friends.
Like in real life, a Digital Dog can be a family pet or an office dog. The NFTs will be stored as ERC-721 tokens and hosted on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Each NFT is connected through the proprietary PetOS to an actual Digital Dog.
Digital Dogs will be used across different virtual environments in the metaverse via the company’s proprietary software development kit (SDK). The Digital Pets Company will sell NFTs that will allow digital dog owners to get to know their dogs and train them through one-on-one digital interactions.
The owners will use tokens to help train the digital dogs by providing positive incentives, much like real-life dogs. The startup will develop social interaction in digital playgrounds where people and dogs will be able to socialize.
“In the coming decade, we will see more and more virtual spaces where people will spend time and create new interactions,” says Itay Hasid, CEO of The Digital Pets Company, in a statement. “These spaces will be very empty and lonely without suitable content, which connects people and establishes substantial social relations. Dogs, which are man’s best friends, make us happier and help us connect with new people. I believe that artificial intelligence, animation, and multisensory communications that combine voice, sight, and touch, will make it possible to create true relationships, exactly like in the physical world, and fulfill social and emotional needs.”
The Digital Pets Company was established in July 2021 and is led by dog-loving engineers and developers. The team consists of AI, machine learning, and virtual reality experts. Itay Hasid, who co-founded the startup with Maciej Miarecki and Amit Yogev, is a 34-year-old serial entrepreneur who co-founded the startup companies Mobeego (acquired by Life Clips), Kado and Qase, among other ventures.
Digital identity is becoming more significant than ever. Many people are buying avatars that will represent them in online social experiences, dress them in suitable clothing and footwear, in order to express the owner’s unique digital identity. Giant companies like Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) even propose to create avatars which can accompany users across different virtual worlds, in order to establish a unified and persistent digital identity.
The Digital Pets Company has made the Laika Web app demo available. Named after the first dog in space, Laika is the company’s first Digital Dog. As a proof of concept, Laika has set a strong foundation for a new living, self-learning species, utilizing voice-AI, extended reality, and blockchain technologies in a way that has never been done before.
Beyond Laika, The Digital Pets Company is currently finalizing construction of its digital laboratory. The lab is a unique 3D virtual space that currently contains the first-generation embryos of the Digital Dogs. These are still growing in incubators. Owners will have access to the same space where they can see how the dogs develop, as well as give them a name and soon train them. The company has 10 employees.
Asked what inspired him to create the company, Hasid said in an email to GamesBeat that there were three main influences.
“The first one is a personal experience I had in a virtual world using a VR headset, in which I learned that it’s not easy at all to create meaningful social interactions, especially with strangers, with avatars in play,” he said. “In that virtual world, there was this ‘ice-breaker box’ with weird questions like ‘what’s your favorite color?’ I thought, ‘mmm, i’m not gonna do it, this is too awkward’ but at that point it i understood something important Digital life is real, and the same rules applied. People are anxious, people are sometimes lonely, it’s hard to break the ice, group dynamics, and so on. So that’s where the idea started.”
The second influence was his experience with dogs.
“I’ve raised dogs all my life, I was even a foster dad to a super cute Labrador guide-dog for blind people, which eventually came to live with me permanently, so I know one or two things about dogs and how they affect people’s lives,” Hasid said. “When I walk with my dog, or go to the park, this is how I usually get to know new people.
The third influence was from the teams’ previous experience with AI, NLP, and conversational AI.
“And we said, ‘wow, if we can actually mimic dogs’ cognition, that would be amazing,'” he said. “So, these personal experiences of mine brought me to the conclusion that in the coming decade, we will see more and more virtual spaces where people will spend time and create new interactions,These spaces will be very empty and lonely without the right content, which connects people and establishes meaningful social relations. Dogs, which are humans’ best friends, make us happier and help us connect with new people. I believe that artificial intelligence, animation, and the right communication interfaces, will make it possible to create true relationships in virtual environments, exactly like in the physical world.”
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