My first day with Peridot: Niantic’s new AR ‘pet’ project

Niantic /

Niantic has made a name for itself with the ridiculous money-printing machine known as Pokemon Go. Normally, Niantic is a bit of a one-trick pony. They had an AR game for years called Ingress Prime, which is Pokemon GO sans Pokemon.

Eventually, they got enough information from working on it that they made the same game only with Pokemon in it. That went well and they did the same thing with both Pikman and NBA. They’re also working on the exact same thing for Marvel and Monster Hunter, so you pretty much know what to expect from them.

This is why I was drawn to Peridot in the first place. Forever ago, Niantic showed off a basic trailer for the game that gave you the idea — an advanced virtual pet that exists in AR that is not only able to recognize the world around it but interact with it. The creatures look adorable and their animations are adorable.

I finally got into the game and I’m going to see how this actually looks and feels though.

Starting off

When I first started the game I got a brief intro to the world of Peridot. Apparently the Peridot are little creatures that disappeared forever ago but their eggs are starting to show up all over the place now. You get to pick one of three.

I’m fairly certain it’s random but I had a choice between a gold glittering egg, a pastel yellow egg with pastel blue curvy lines, and a metallic green egg covered in black rectangles. I liked the circuitry look of that third egg so I picked it. That’s when I found out that the pattern on the egg is the pattern on your creature and while that pattern on an egg makes it look like circuitry, on a Peridot it makes it look like a watermelon slug.

The animation is adorable however and it immediately sets off looking around the environment and reacting to things on a level I haven’t really seen AR perform before. For example, it recognized the table in my living room and hopped up on it. Then it jumped onto my couch and laid down and went to sleep. It made me curious so I walked around my house and found it would lay down on soft surfaces and stand on hard.

Later I went outside where we have a lake in the backyard. My Peridot recognized the water and when I told it to investigate the area, it dove in with a loud splash. It recognized it’s water! You can see that at about 3:45 in my video below.

Over time you get to do things like teach it tricks, dress it up, and things like that. It’s not the most in-depth thing but as far as virtual pets go it’s pretty damn advanced. Plus, admittedly, some of the quests make me actually want to go outside for a bit unlike Pokemon’s goals. For example, one of the goals was to introduce my Peridot to a dog or cat. I was curious and found my dog and, sure enough, Peridot recognized there was a dog there and laid down next to it after showing a little speech bubble with a picture of a dog in it.

Another one asked me to show it a flower. I went outside where, luckily, I also have flowers growing and the Peridot got really excited and smelled one. The AR does a fantastic job of understanding the shapes around it. I found it recognized TVs, toilets, stairs, things of that nature.

The other thing I liked is how it keeps up with you. You can just walk with it and if you keep your screen trained on it you’ll see it keeping up with you. Matching your pace as opposed to Pokemon Go where you basically moonwalk around the general area.

Multiplayer was really interesting too. I was able to see all the other people near me and what their pets were looking like. I was surprised too because as I felt I spent too much time on it today, I found every in my area had managed to evolve theirs into really pretty fox like creatures and unicorn bears.

I have to say I’m genuinely impressed with how the game is working out so far. It IS tough to fully call it a game as it’s more just watching something on your screen and occasionally interacting with it, but at the same time I found it to be fun and relaxing and a really cool piece of tech to play with.

If you’re curious, Peridot is available now on most devices. I installed it on several devices around the home and found that there are phones that can play Pokemon GO that are not capable of running Peridot so keep that in mind. Also, warning in advance, it is a battery hog. I have a fairly decent phone and after about 20-30 minutes my phone was almost dead and felt like I had pulled it from a hot quesadilla. It’ll be really interesting to see how my phone fairs running this on a hot day.

But until it bursts in my hands I think I’m going to enjoy my time with these little virtual goobers.