We’re leading the Seed round in Altera

As an investor, it’s a rare occasion to encounter a startup demo that hints at a true paradigm shift in how humans interact with computers.

Games have long served as fertile ground for testing emerging technologies, acting as a gateway for mass consumer adoption—from the early days of personal computing to the ubiquity of smartphones and proliferation of GPUs. While AI Agents have historically been associated with productivity tools, we anticipate a shift towards consumer applications, with games leading the charge as the mass market consumer onramp for agent-to-human interactions.

And what excites us most about games is their ability to facilitate not only interactions between agents and players via text-based interfaces but also meaningful, immersive player-agent interactions around a fully 3D spatial environment leading to different datasets than standard language based models.

The release of the Stanford virtual town research paper over a year ago ignited imagination around the possibility of virtual worlds populated by agents alongside humans. We anticipated that ambitious founders would build upon this foundation, recognizing that the research paper was merely scratching the surface.

Enter Altera.

When we first met the team earlier this year and witnessed the early version of their agent, we were floored. Unlike most game agents that relied on game developers’ permission to even operate and were limited to text/audio, Altera audaciously targeted fully autonomous agent gameplay, starting with Minecraft—a rich 3D environment with far more variables and complexity than traditional language-based models. Observing Altera’s 3-month old agents autonomously crafting complex objects in Minecraft and engaging in conversations with players was a testament to one of the most technically impressive teams we’ve encountered in our careers.

Dr. Robert Yang is a computational neuroscientist and former professor at MIT, world-renowned for his research on deep neural network models of the brain. He and the company’s other three co-founders, CSO Dr. Andrew Ahn, CTO Shuying Luo and CBO Nico Christie, shut down their applied research lab at MIT to launch Altera. Andrew holds an MIT math PhD, where he focused on theoretical deep learning. Shuying spent eight years at Google focused on AI; Nico is a previous entrepreneur/engineer whose first venture backed consumer startup scaled to millions in revenue.

And since we co-led their oversubscribed seed round just months ago, Altera has made rapid and significant strides, surpassing Nvidia’s renowned Voyager research in just a few months. Their ability to create a diamond pickaxe from scratch at a fraction of the cost, while remaining completely autonomous and Minecraft-agnostic, is remarkable.

Furthermore, they’ve attracted top tier talent, including a former games lead at Supercell, as well as scientists and engineers from premier AI-focused labs and PhD programs. Their current development of  new multi-agent research promises to be even more impressive than anything previously seen in this space.

While research achievements are exciting, we’re equally excited about the consumer applications of Altera’s technology. They’ve already garnered significant player interest with the initial demo video hitting the number one slot on Minecrafts’ largest subreddit and being featured by one of Minecraft’s largest YouTubers, Kwebbelkop, generating millions in views. Signups for their playtest continue to generate significant interest while players are having more fun as agents improve daily.

AI agents, once confined to the realm of science fiction as we’ve seen in movies like Blade Runner and Westworld, now offer the potential for deep emotional connections and immersive experiences in gaming. Simulation, roleplay, and MMOs are the three existing genres that can clearly benefit from this new paradigm shift. Most importantly we believe Altera’s agents will enable new types of games altogether and foster deeper, more meaningful relationships between players and the game world – starting as toys today but eventually becoming teachers, colleagues, friends, and perhaps even family members.

The Altera team has built something truly remarkable in the AI agent space in limited time, with a clear potential that extends far beyond gaming. We are incredibly excited to support them from the very beginning alongside our close partners Aaron at First Spark, Jon and Jack at Andreessen Horowitz, and Patron’s network of esteemed angels.

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