Update: The campaign is now closed. If you missed it, go to wiglet.net where you can place a preorder (for a limited time) and follow our further adventures.
We're building a book! Not just any old book; it's an interactive puzzle-game. The physical book would make a nice conversation-piece on its own, but with your smart phone or tablet, and our free app, something magical happens. The invisible becomes visible.
Emerging from this book is a new kind of creature that inspires, entertains, and could possibly revolutionize the art of character animation as we know it. These characters are called "wiglets".
It's a Learning Tool!
How can we get kids (the problem-solvers of tomorrow) involved in the environmental issues that we care so deeply about? Our overall mission is to get children engaged in learning - both indoors and out. Wiglets are the mascots for a new genre of gamified learning experiences. Just think of them as the “Muppets of the digital age”. With the help of our technology, wiglets will encourage kids to venture out into nature, where the real and virtual meet – to create highly- imaginative play.
Our book is just the beginning. Think of it as a vehicle – a catalyst – for learning through play.
Adopt Your Own Wiglet To Save the Species
As within the story of the book, there is a "call to action" where you can do your part to help the wiglets.
When you get to the end of the book/game, you will be able to adopt one of the characters in the book as your own personal wiglet. Your wiglet's genetic code, coordinates on Earth, and other important information will be stored in the cloud. We have exciting plans for all the wiglets that will leap from the pages of this book and into your world!
What does it mean for a wiglet to be in "your world"? Take a look at this video for a small hint:
Here's another T-shirt video that shows off our new "selfie mode":
What People Are Saying...
Want to experience some of the magic for yourself? Download Peanut Boy and the Hole of Danger to see our new technology in action. Here's a preliminary video of what we have woking so far:
The Story of the Book
This is essentially a story about finding a place where you belong. We all need a "habitat" that feeds our bodies and our minds.
Meet Peck Peck, a bird-like wiglet that eats seeds and poops (making fertilizer to grow flowers to harvest more seeds). Imagine that Peck Peck and her wiglet friends have been thrown for a loop and are all scrambled up. They are lost! They are about to take a journey, and with some modern twisty-loops, we learn that there's much more than meets the eye.
Peck Peck's journey can lead down alternate paths (sometimes going "back in time") to re-visit past pages of the book. With each page-spread acting as a puzzle game, you will be able to explore the book in a nonlinear fashion as characters come and go, revealing secrets to their lost nature.
In the end, a natural harmony is found in Peck Peck's world...but only with your help!
Welcome to the Future of Animation
Wiglets are not at all like typical animated characters. These critters are self-animated. They respond to real-world gravity (thanks to the accelerometers and gyroscopes in your smart phone :) They can look at you (no matter where you are), and they have funny little brains. Here's animator Alan Sperling talking about Peck Peck, and the jazzy movement of wiglets...
This project represents for me the culmination of about 20 years of work. I started life as a budding artist. I performed poorly in school, but because of my artistic talents I was able to blossom in college. Learning programming opened up a whole new world for me. One thing lead to another, and I ended up getting a master’s degree from MIT. Like many creative-minded coders, I moved to San Francisco in search of a career where I have a chance of bringing art and technology together. I did my time in the dot.com bubble, and put a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears into a company that I co-founded, called There.com (a virtual world that features expressive avatars). My dedication has always been about building things that inspire people.
Now it's my turn to put my best foot forward. And I'm doing it my way, with a small, talented team, that is growing around me. These people have big hearts and solid values. A big shout-out to Barry Stump, a brilliant programmer, maker- extraordinaire, and backer of 100 Kickstarter campaigns!
This book-game project, with your help, will be a chance to apply my 20-years of experience in artificial life, art education, and game development, and make something meaningful to everyone. The wonderful team that has assembled here at Work Petaluma is helping to make it real, and I am very grateful to everyone that has helped.
Ralph Scott here opining on a new genre of Wiglet Books...
Some people say that the book is dead. But we know that books have only just begun to evolve in many beautiful ways, thanks to augmented reality, the maker movement, big data, and lots of imagination. Get ready: here comes a new genre of books that involves artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms, geolocation, and social media.
Our book will kickstart this new evolution with a new species of virtual characters that live in real time and real space (geolocation). We believe we are on the verge of a new genre of educational/entertainment media.
We don't have it all figured out yet, but we think we've got some of the magic working. Check it out:
Work Petaluma is a very special place, full of entrepreneurs with ambitions for a sustainable future, telecommuters avoiding the drive to San Francisco, and an impressive quota of creatives and technologists of all stripes. We can't include everyone who has helped out, but one thing's for sure: the two chief wiglets are Jeffrey Ventrella and Barry Stump.
Jeffrey Ventrella, CEO (Creature Engine Operator)
Jeffrey brings his vast creative background in visual arts, character animation, and software development to this project. He has two Fine Art degrees, and a third degree from MIT. Having written code for Second Life, Adobe Systems, and several startups, Jeffrey has what it takes to lead this project. Jeffrey also happens to be the author of three books: Brainfilling Curves, Virtual Body Language, and Divisor Drips.
Jeffrey teamed up with long-time friend Ken Pearce, a veteran of the computer animation industry (Dreamworks, Shrek, etc), expert in facial motion capture, and winner a Primetime Emmy Award. Together they got the company started, and fleshed out some aspects of the characters. Ken coined the term "wiglet".
Here is a bio of Jeffrey.
Barry Stump, CTO (Clairvoyant Trouble Obviator)
Barry is the the uber-guru of all things tech. He set up the database of wiglet genotypes, managed the overall architecture of all the iOS apps, and has even made great strides in getting the Android port going. On top of this, Barry is an exceptionally creative thinker, and has contributed many ideas. Barry has brought his incredibly creative energy and expertise to many projects, including Smart Ride, which made Time Magazine's Best 50 Apps of 2012; and more recently to interactive projects on Roku, Google Glass, and Chromecast. He also builds robots, including one that chases his kids down the hall.
Our Graphic Designer Is a Kickstarter Champ!
Fermin Mata, experienced art director and graphic designer, had his own Kickstarter success with Thread Council. Fermin designed our T-shirts and is helping with concept art for our book, greeting cards, and other media. And his magnificent tattoo inspired the idea for one of our Kickstarter rewards :)
New stretch goals! See Update #7 for more details.
Sophia Learns About Ecology
Look at this video. Do you think Sophia is too young to start learning about ecology? We think she's got a good start. You decide for yourself....
Risks and challenges
We have made extra effort to get all the important technical pieces in place, such as getting the database set up, getting the augmented reality code tight, and making a flexible wiglet animation system.
We are embarking on a new paradigm of character interaction within a new technology (augmented reality). Something might blow up, but we're determined to fix it. We don't have all the answers, but we are nimble and open to all suggestions. We invite you to join us in exploring the possibilities, and making this a great success.
Even though we have lots of experience and mojo, we know things can go wrong. For instance:
(1) The narrative and interactive aspects of the book are complex and open ended, and so the design will be challenging. We think it'll be really cool, but novelty has its risks.
(2) Augmented reality portends a new kind of user experience, and it may be difficult to explain to people how to use it in an intuitive way.
(3) We could all get hit by a giant meteorite before we're finished.
(4) The system could open a portal into another dimension and all the wiglets would be lost forever, in addition to the team and all of our backers.
- (33 days)