×

VR Veterans Launch Startup for Intelligent AR Avatars

Two veterans of immersive storytelling have banded together for a new Los Angeles-based augmented reality (AR) startup: Former Felix & Paul chief content officer Ryan Horrigan and former Milk VR and VRSE.works producer Armando Kirwin unveiled their new startup Artie Thursday, laying out a vision to bring intelligent avatars everywhere.

“VR and AR are the first media where you can be part of the story,” said Horrigan during a recent interview with Variety. “But you can’t talk to characters. You can’t have human interactions with characters. We felt this was a big problem.”

Artie aims to solve that problem with a suite of tools that it calls its “Wonderfriend Engine,” which aim to help creators to build interactive avatars for mobile AR experiences. The software integrates with existing real-time rendering engines like Unity and Unreal, and makes use of object recognition, natural language processing and even sentiment analysis for more life-like interactions.

“As a creative, having a tool where the story could change based on my audience being happy or sad in real-time is fascinating,” said Kirwin. Currently, Artie’s software is capable of detecting seven prime emotions based on facial expressions. In the coming months, this is supposed to expand to 30 emotions. In addition to detecting emotions, Artie’s engine can also recognize around 80 objects, including coffee mugs, chairs and refrigerators.

The duo decided to focus on AR as opposed to VR to achieve maximum distribution for its avatars, but Horrigan and Kirwin quickly realized that a large footprint of phones capable of running AR doesn’t guarantee that anyone will install or even use them.

“Right now, AR experiences are stuck in the App Store,” said Horrigan. “The distribution angle needs to change to really see meaningful discovery and shareability and thus virality.” That’s why Artie is looking to empower creators to build AR avatars for the web, which can be easily shared with a link and on social media.

Artie is targeting both Hollywood and social media influencers, with Kirwin arguing that studios could create avatars of their stars to promote new movies, complete with a call to action. “For example, a Wolverine avatar that’s marketing a Marvel ‘X-Men’ movie could actually sell you a movie ticket at the end,” he said.

Artie has been backed by Jeff Katzenberg’s WndrCo., Founders Fund, the Venture Reality Fund, M Ventures, DCG’s Metaverse Ventures, and angel investors including Cyan Banister, YouTube founder Chad Hurley and Ubiquity6 Co-founder and CEO Anjney Midha. The company had already begun to onboard strategic developers ahead of an official launch of the platform in the first quarter of next year.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Tycho weather app

    This Website Creates Spotify & Apple Music Playlists Based on Your Local Weather

    Electronica musician Tycho launched a clever promotional website for his new album “Weather” this week: Visitors of Tycho’s website can use a web app to generate a playlist based on their local weather. Playlists can be saved to both Spotify and Apple Music, and consist of 25 songs, both from Tycho’s catalog as well as [...]

  • AT&T TV

    AT&T TV: An Unskinny Streaming Bundle That Looks a Lot Like Traditional Pay TV

    AT&T this week launched AT&T TV, a new subscription streaming television service that uses an Android-based internet set-top, in 10 markets. But the way it’s priced and packaged looks very similar to cable and satellite TV services — in other words, AT&T TV isn’t targeted at the cord-cutter crowd. It’s basically designed as a way [...]

  • Sofia Wylie arrives at Variety's Power

    Disney Channel Enlists Duplass Brothers for YouTube Hip-Hop Dance Series Starring Sofia Wylie

    Disney Channel’s first original scripted series made exclusively for release on YouTube is “Shook,” a hip-hop dance short-form series starring Sofia Wylie, produced by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass. “Shook” will debut Saturday, Sept. 28, on Disney Channel’s YouTube channel. The scripted single-camera show centers on 15-year-old Mia (Wylie), who yearns to dance professionally but [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Is Getting Rid of Messaging Feature

    YouTube is killing off a feature that allowed users to share videos and other messages with each other. YouTube Messages, which was first introduced in January of 2017, will be turned off by September 18, the company announced this week. “We’re constantly reevaluating our priorities and have decided to discontinue YouTube’s native direct messaging feature [...]

  • Yara Shahidi

    Audible Teams Up With Big Names as Audio-Only Storytelling Expands

    Hobnobbing with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Kate McKinnon and Yara Shahidi isn’t typically the gloss applied to the cerebral audiobook set, but Audible is putting the humble audio story through its own movie-makeover montage, inking high-profile development deals with entertainment names like “The Walking Dead” comics creator Skybound Entertainment, Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Lorne [...]

  • Geneva Wasserman

    Condé Nast Taps Film Veteran Geneva Wasserman as SVP of Motion Pictures

    Condé Nast Entertainment hired Geneva Wasserman as senior vice president of motion pictures, overseeing development of the media company’s slate of feature film properties. Wasserman, a nearly 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry, most recently served as co-founder and executive producer of production firm Project Z Entertainment. She takes over the role at CNE after [...]

  • A view of the SK Telecom

    Korean Regulators Approve Four-Way Streaming Merger

    South Korean regulators have approved the merger of the video services of three local broadcasters and SK Telecom’s streaming app Oksusu. The new service, operating under the name Wavve will launch in September and be Korea’s largest. Proposed in January as a measure to combat the incursion of international video players, the deal was given [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content