Holographic-tech startup 8i is announcing that it has raised $27 million from media, tech, and telecommunications strategic investors. The company is also announcing Holo, a consumer mobile augmented reality app that lets people express themselves with funny holograms.
Time Warner led the round, and other investors included Baidu, Hearst, Verizon, One Ventures, Seed & Speed, and existing investors.
“As consumers are augmenting, mixing, and creating new content on their smartphones on a massive scale, mobile presents an unparalleled opportunity for distribution of holograms,” said 8i CEO Steve Raymond in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have the strategic expertise and backing of leaders in media, technology, and communications as we bring audiences new ways to create and engage with content. With this global round, we look forward to partnering with our investors from the U.S., China, Europe, and Australia as we bring our technology to consumers worldwide.”
The Holo app is currently in early beta testing on Google’s first Tango-enabled device, the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. 8i plans to launch the Holo app later in 2017 with key content partnerships and programming.
8i has raised a total of $41 million to date. This is the first investment in VR/AR for Baidu through its recently formed fund, Baidu Ventures. Time Warner Investments managing director Scott Levine is joining 8i’s board.
8i is showing off Holo, which gives people an easy way to create mixed reality content with holograms of their favorite celebrities, brands, and characters. Holo lets users add holograms to their real-world environments and take videos and photos they can share with friends across their social channels and messaging apps.
“With VR and AR, we’re seeing the very beginning of a new generation of immersive media,” said Levine in a statement. “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.”
The app provides an innovative way for influencers across entertainment, music, and sports to reach and engage their audiences — and drive a new form of user-generated content around their brand.
“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, in a statement. “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.”
As part of the beta, 8i is testing how users interact with the new technology and a limited selection of sample 3D holograms.
“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 started in 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand, and Los Angeles.