Defense against an AI-bot apocalypse: Give them pets

Quick Take

  • Augmented reality start-up Anima launches Onlybots, a collection of virtual pets and NFTs users can acquire — if they pretend to be bots.
  • The collection cracked OpenSea’s top 10 trending collections list on Wednesday after selling out in less than an hour.

One new company may have come up with our best hope of preventing AI bots from ushering in an apocalypse: Give them pets to play with.

That’s the concept behind augmented reality start-up Anima’s new project called Onlybots, a platform where bots — or humans masquerading as bots — can obtain AR-powered virtual pets. The pets, which are also NFTs minted on Ethereum, are now trading on OpenSea.

Wednesday’s initial drop of unique AR creatures sold out almost immediately, according to Anima, causing the newly minted group of digital assets to crack OpenSea’s top 10 trending collections on its first day of availability. The company said the first two batches of about 500 pets sold out in less than an hour. At the time of writing, Openbots ranked fifth on OpenSea’s trending collections list.

“[Bots] are very much in the zeitgeist right now. Elon Musk was obsessed with them. ChatGPT is probably the biggest story in tech this week,” said Anima cofounder Alex Herrity. “But we don’t really think about ‘What do bots want? What would make them happy?’”

Kidding aside, Anima’s Onlybots project is the latest example of a company attaching added value and functionality to digital collectibles in an effort to spur wider adoption. While the current downturn across crypto has caused NFT trading volumes to plummet, the number of transactions has been steadily rising as more mainstream consumers embrace the buying and selling of digital assets with the advent of new web3 games and social media companies like Reddit, Instagram and Twitter rolling out initiatives aimed at introducing newcomers to the world of crypto.

Herrity believes the trend will continue and adoption and ownership will spread as use cases proliferate.

“We founded Anima really noticing that digital ownership and digital collectibles is exploding and will change, and continue to change, as a whole generation grows up used to owning digital goods from the beginning they’re interacting with products they care about,” said Herrity. “We wanted to bring that into AR because up until now AR has really been filters on SnapChat. It's a distraction, it’s not something you can own.”

After having previously worked on Fortnite, Herrity founded Anima last year with $500,000 in pre-seed financing led by Coinbase. He’s joined by cofounder Neil Voss, who worked at Nintendo in the 1990s.

With Onlybots, human users capable of pretending to be AI bots by failing a questionnaire and reCAPTCHA can acquire chunky Lego-like, augmented-reality digital creatures that can then be superimposed over the real world using a smartphone. While technically Amina has created the pets for humans to enjoy, AI bots can also acquire the digital creatures, according to Herrity.

Although Wednesday’s initial launch quickly sold out, Anima plans to release more on top of adding additional functionality and animation based in part on what people choose to do with the virtual pets.

“This initial batch is aimed at the collectors,” said Herrity, adding that Anima’s long-term plan extends far beyond creating virtual NFT pets. He says Anima wants to build a platform people can use to create their own AR-powered digital assets.


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Whether Anima's virtual pets can save the world from a bot apocalypse remains to be seen.

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About Author

RT Watson is a senior reporter at The Block who covers a wide array of topics including U.S.-based companies, blockchain gaming and NFTs. Formerly covered entertainment at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote about Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. and the creator economy while focusing primarily on technological disruption across media. Previous to that he covered corporate, economic and political news in Brazil while at Bloomberg. RT has interviewed a diverse cast of characters including CEOs, media moguls, top influencers, politicians, blue-collar workers, drug traffickers and convicted criminals. Holds a master's degree in Digital Sociology.


To contact the editor of this story:
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