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Atari and Anima turn classic arcade game characters into AR and AI Onlybots


May 2, 2023
Atari and Anima turn classic arcade game characters into AR and AI Onlybots


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Gaming companies Atari and Anima have joined forces to bring iconic Atari characters into Anima’s Onlybots AI and augmented reality universe.

Onlybots are AI companions, experienced in augmented reality, and described by Anima as next-generation Tamagotchis.

“At Anima, we’ve built Onlybots as artificially intelligent companions and pets. They’re basically like virtual pets, like if you reimagined what the Tamagotchi was going to be for today,” said Anima cofounder Alex Herrity, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It would be something you could talk to. It could be something you would see in AR around you and be aware of what’s near you. And it would be like a digital collectible.”

Using AI, Onlybots are able to talk with their owners and, using AR, appear next to them through smartphone cameras. Now, popular Atari characters from games including Centipede, Adventure, Crystal Castles, and Pong will become Onlybots, complete with authentic backstories and personalities based on their histories.


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Onlybots are AR characters with AI.
Onlybots are AR characters with AI.

“We take an emerging technology like AR and AI and put it in a new type of gaming that actually resonates with people and connects them emotionally and that’s that’s really what we’re trying to do with Onlybots,” Herrity said. “This level of AR and integration into AI, which is still in early stages, is super exciting. It’s a new medium and we’re bringing that history to life.”

I saw a demo of this in action with characters such as Centipede. And let’s just say that Centipede has a pretty silly voice. And it had a lot of attitude.

Asked about the meaning of life, Centipede said, “Well, man, I’m just a digital ghost of a game programmer. I can’t tell you what the medium is, dude. It’s all about choices and bouncing between different outcomes. Just like in my game, you’ve got to find your own path.”

“What we found is that you end up spending much more time talking to NPCs,” said Herrity. “You feel like an emotional connection to it the same way you would with a game character that you care about that.”

For the first time, this collaboration allows fans to interact and engage in deep and amusing conversations with Atari characters, software, and hardware. Atari Onlybots will feature unique character twists, including Centipede, a method actor that’s resentful of his lack of recognition, and Atari Jaguar VR, a traveler from an alternate dimension where the device was released and changed the world forever.

“We’re transitioning from what we used to do over the past 10 years of just licensing and really partnering with those who are pushing technology boundaries,” said Tyler Drewitz of Atari X. “They’re creating some really good storytelling, have fun experiences around gaming or provide different experiences for people with our legacy IP.”

“When I first heard about Onlybots and what they are creating, I went and played with it and right away the characters were cool too look at and play with,” he added.

A limited edition collection of 200 Atari Onlybots will be available for purchase on Onlybot’s website only.bot this June.

The Onlybots use blockchain tech and the company can sell the Onlybots and fans can resell them as they wish thanks to digital ownership.

“What the blockchain and Web3 need are quality experiences on top of the chain,” Herrity said.

Onlybots is powered by Anima’s technology stack, including a powerful AR engine, a large-language model-agnostic platform with a custom rules layer, and voice recognition and sentiment detection. Currently, Anima mainly relies on OpenAI’s GPT-4 model for artificial intelligence.

Today, users can talk to and interact with Onlybots at this webiste or by downloading the public beta of the Onlybots VMO app, which draws inspiration from retro handheld devices like the Dreamcast VMO, Atari Lynx, Bandai Wonderswan, and the Game Boy Camera. Anima plans to release a mass-market version of Onlybots as a creative game platform later this year.

“Atari pioneered home gaming and personal computing, making them the perfect partner as we create a new way to play with emerging technologies through Onlybots,” said Herrity. “Atari has demonstrated a commitment to both honoring their legacy and adapting it to new contexts, and we’re so excited for Anima and Onlybots to be a part of it.”

Anima is a gaming and interactive technology company that utilizes AI, AR, and blockchain to bring digital characters and imaginary worlds to life.

Onlybots is the company’s flagship game, with virtual collectible pets that live, speak, and play games with their owners and the creative world around them. Anima was founded in 2021 by Neil Voss and Herrity, known for their work with Nintendo, Epic Games, HBO, Tumblr, and Flipboard.

Today, the company has ten employees and has raised $4 million from investors such as Coinbase, Polygon, Not Boring, and Hashkey.

“It’s native AR and we built our own graphics framework on top of what’s available in the phones themselves, so that’s our secret sauce that we have on the tech side,” Herrity said. “On the AI side, we’re building off of what OpenAI GPT-4 can do. But we are able to prompt it with our own layer on top of that, so we can actually switch between different models from OpenAI to Google easily.”

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