New round led by Time Warner Investments backs 8i’s mission to enable the evolution of media and give people the best way to connect and express themselves with holograms.
8i, a company that develops holographic technology for virtual and augmented reality, today announced a US$27 million Series B round of funding to support the launch of its new mixed reality app Holo in 2017. The new round, which brings 8i’s total funding to $41 million, was led by Time Warner Investments, with participation from Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, One Ventures, Carsten Maschmeyer’s Seed & Speed Ventures, and existing investors. This is the first investment in VR/AR for Baidu, Inc. through its recently formed fund, Baidu Ventures. Time Warner Investments Managing Director Scott Levine joins 8i’s board.
“With VR and AR, we’re seeing the very beginning of a new generation of immersive media,” said Scott Levine of Time Warner Investments. “8i makes holographic human content a reality in this new era with its breakthrough volumetric capture technology, while lowering the barrier for creators. We’re excited to back this world-class team as they continue to push the boundaries of data compression and depth acquisition, and bring holograms to the mainstream with Holo on smartphones.”
“We are excited to back the extraordinary team at 8i and help bring its superior holographic experience to mass audiences in China,” said Daisy Cai, managing partner at Baidu Ventures. “At Baidu, we envision a future where VR and AR can be applied in numerous industries that serve our more than one billion monthly active users.”
Holo currently in beta, launching in 2017
8i is testing an early beta version of Holo on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro powered by Tango, an augmented reality technology from Google. As part of the beta, 8i is testing how users interact with the new technology and a limited selection of sample 3D holograms. The company plans to officially launch a new version of the app with content partners and programming later this year on Tango-enabled smartphones, and other mobile devices.
8i Studios partner program enables human-driven VR and AR
8i develops technology that provides an easy way to record, create and experience human holograms that look real and feel as if they were in the same room. Through its 8i Studios partner program, 8i enables human-driven VR and AR projects from third party creators. Partners record a human performance using an array of cameras through an approach called volumetric capture. The company’s proprietary technology transforms the video into a photorealistic 3D hologram, which can be easily integrated into VR/AR experiences for any device using 8i’s plugin for Unity. 8i rolled out the program in April 2016, and has signed more than 100 partners to date.
“As we deliver on our long term vision of enabling the evolution of media and human communication, we’re inspired to help our partners bring their own vision to life,” said Raymond. “One of these projects is a groundbreaking virtual reality experience 8i created with Buzz Aldrin and our incredible partners at Time Inc. and Soylent, which we’re excited to premiere at the SXSW:Film festival in March.”
8i’s team brings decades of experience from Weta Digital, YouTube, NVIDIA, Google, Valve, Microsoft Research, PayPal, Sony Computer Entertainment, DreamWorks, Pixar, Bell Laboratories, Viacom, Xero, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Zynga. Existing investors in 8i include RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Dolby Family Ventures, Signia Ventures Partners, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Sound Ventures (Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary), Inevitable Ventures, Freelands and Advancit Capital. Advisors include Kevin Wall (Control Room), Sam Wick (UTA), Ted Schilowitz (20th Century Fox), and Joshua Feast (Cogito).