Los Angeles-based holographic capture startup 8i has raised a $27 million series B round of funding from investors including Time Warner Investments, Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon and others. The company wants to use the new cash infusion to launch an augmented reality mobile app dubbed Holo that will allow consumers to bring holograms of movie stars into their living rooms.
8i’s Holo app will officially launch later this year. It will essentially allow consumers to record videos of themselves that include the company’s holograms, mixing their everyday surroundings with movie characters, memes and more. Here’s a demo video of the app, which got officially announced at the Code Media conference in Southern California Monday:
8i CEO Steve Raymond told Variety last week that the company is already beta-testing the app on the Lenovo Phab 2, the first mobile phone that supports Google’s Tango augmented reality platform. Tango essentially allows the phone to map the room, and determine its own location, which makes it easier to place 8i’s Holograms at exactly the right spot. “An AR-enabled phone does positional tracking,” said Raymond. “It has a richer feature set.”
However, Raymond said that Holo would eventually also be available on mobile phones that don’t come with extended AR capabilities built-in. The ultimate goal was to give anyone the ability to add photo-realistic 3D holograms to their videos. “You could put one of your favorite YouTubers in the room with you,” said Raymond as the way of another example.
8i was founded in 2014 and has been operating out of offices in Wellington, New Zealand as well as Los Angeles. The company developed technology to scan humans and turn them into 3D holograms, which it initially pitched a a way to make virtual reality more realistic.
The now-announced Holo app takes some of those same holograms and uses them for mobile AR, but Raymond explained that this wasn’t a pivot. “We are still very focused on VR,” he said, promising to announce new VR projects soon. However, AR also gives the company a way to bring some of its holographic assets to a wider audience even before consumers have bought into VR. “We are allowing content creators to interact with us sooner,” he said.