Wiggle Planet in the News: “Petaluma startup’s educational app plays with reality”

Petaluma’s primary newspaper, the Petaluma Argus Courier, just ran a great piece about Wiggle Planet.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

“Petaluma startup’s educational app plays with reality”

What if you could open a book and have the characters spring to life from the pages to play and interact with? It sounds like fantasy, but the creative minds at Petaluma-based Wiggle Planet, are making it reality — an “augmented reality” that has the potential to disrupt the educational and entertainment industries.

Founded by Jeffrey Ventrella in 2012, Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality. Differing from virtual reality, augmented reality is a layer of the digital world on top of the real world. Augmented reality incorporates the real world as opposed to virtual reality that is designed to escape it.

It sounds complex, but for the average person it’s simple. The user downloads a Wiggle Planet app and through it is able to see and interact with a unique variety of animated characters called Wiglets that are “artificially alive.” Through the software they’ve developed, the Wiglets incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual physics and genetic inheritance, which make them completely different from the characters in video games.

“They are dynamic characters that can be used in particular for storytelling,” said John Lester, lead technology evangelist for Wiggle Planet. “They are not pre-programmed or scripted agents. They are artificially alive. They have dynamic, evolving behaviors. And the best way to summarize it is this: it’s augmented reality plus artificial life as an overlay on the physical world.”

Check out the full article for lots of great information!

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Lead Technology Evangelist, Wiggle Planet

I’m an editor for the International Journal on Innovations in Online Education. Want to contribute?

screenshot while exploring OpensimI’m working with John Bourne on a new academic journal.

It’s called the International Journal on Innovations in Online Education (IJIOE) and will be published by Begell House.  The Aim and Scope of the Journal is provided below.

The journal will be organized into subtopic areas called “Streams,” with each Stream consisting of a collection of articles published quarterly. The content of each stream will range from short news items to longer in-depth articles and reviews. All published articles will allow for active commentary by readers and all the other stream editors.

Here’s a list of all current Streams:

  • Nursing Innovations
  • Online Laboratories
  • GIS Online Innovations
  • Analytics
  • ePortfolios and Prior Learning
  • Immersive Online Education (my stream)
  • StoryTelling for Online Education
  • Startups in Online Education
  • Industry On-line Education
  • Competency-based Education

I’m on the Advisory Board for the journal, and I’m also the Stream Editor for Immersive Online Education.

My Stream will focus on innovative online learning environments that immerse students perceptually (3d simulations, VR, AR, etc.) as well as provide opportunities for collaborative learning (leveraging multiuser virtual worlds, social media tools, etc.).

I’m currently looking for interested authors who would like to contribute. Your article can be about your own work, a review of interesting developments in the field, or anything innovative you’d like to discuss. Suggestions about others who might want to write articles for the journal would be welcomed.

Please email me directly at john.e.lester@gmail.com if you’re interested or have any questions.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester


Aim and Scope of the Journal

The aim of IJIOE is to provide the field of online higher education with quality knowledge about what is going on in important areas of the field, with a specific emphasis on what is new and likely to affect the field. IJIOE has a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) online education, including related fields such as healthcare. IJIOE is the purveyor of “WISDOM” about the field, providing short articles, discussions with author experts and reviews of methods for moving the field forward in selected areas.

The scope of IJIOE includes all of online higher education, but has a loose focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and healthcare. Articles are managed by “stream editors,” experts in specific streams of interests within this scope, including disciplines within the above content areas. From time to time, streams will be started that are thought to influence the major streams.

Life Connected to Life: How to Revolutionize Environmental Education

[This post also appears on Wiggle Planet’s blog.]

There are many educational games out there that do their best to teach people about the environment.  And many of them do a great job.

For example, I really like how Earth Day Canada put together their EcoKids website.  The games on EcoKids are mostly simple simulations with engaging action and puzzle-based mechanics, and it’s great how they blend the computer-based games with physical-world activities (e.g., play a game on the computer then go outside and do some recycling).  Games that encourage people to make positive changes to their physical world, improving the environment for everyone.

In fact, both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have sites that promote environmental education through games.  It’s inspiring for me to see large governmental agencies exploring innovative ways to protect the environment and educate the public.

But there’s another level of immersive environmental education we haven’t even touched yet.

wshedcrosscut2

First, a key fact about Nature that we often forget.

Nature likes to hide things.  Particularly when something is wrong.  

It’s a fundamental trait that has developed in pretty much every species on the planet.  Are you sick?  Weak?  Injured?  Well, you better hide it as much as possible, otherwise something will come along, notice you’re indisposed, and then eat you for lunch.  This trait also manifests itself in entire networks of interdependent and related organisms (i.e., ecosystems).  By the time it’s easy to observe a systemic problem, the damage is often irreversible.

So, it’s not enough for us to be well educated and observant.  We need superhuman powers to help us visualize what’s really happening in Nature.

I believe artificial life combined with augmented reality is the magic key.  We can help Nature tell us her secrets by creating artificial life forms directly connected to all the data repositories we’ve already created for collecting and tracking environmental data.  Imagine the appearance and behaviors of these artificial life forms changing based on these data, generating powerful human-observable moments.  And finally, imagine these artificial life forms living in an augmented reality space overlaid on the natural world.

For example, take the beautiful concept of the Kodama from the movie Princess Mononoke.

kodama on tree

Kodama are small mystical creatures living in the forest that represent the spirits of all the trees.  Their behavior and appearance in the movie is directly related to the health of all the trees they inhabit.  For example, when the trees get sick, the kodama can be seen falling from the air and dissolving into the ground.

Now, imagine walking up to a tree in the physical world.

oak-tree

Is that tree really healthy?  Not sure, since trees (like most life forms) are pretty good at hiding things (until it’s too late).  Is the forest in which this tree lives getting enough water?  Is the water table polluted?

Sure, you could pull environmental data up on your smartphone and look at graphs and charts and summarized reports.

But those are all cold data, with no sense of life to them.

Rather, imagine watching the data express itself through a family of Kodama that live around the tree.  Imagine looking through your smart phone into an augmented reality space full of artificial life with which you can interact and communicate.

Oh no, all the Kodama are brown and withered!  That means drought!   Oh, they’re all walking over to that other tree.  There must be water over there.  Wait, they’re mutating into something weird.  Some kind of pollution?  The imaginative possibilities, let alone the entertaining and engaging gaming scenarios, are endless.

Effective learning and true understanding comes from emotional resonance.

And nothing resonates more with human beings than life connected to life.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester