NZ firm tucks into $27m on the back of VR 'hologram' promise

You’ll dance with Beyonce in your living room, vows co-founder

Analysis 8i, a New Zealand based company, last week landed a large B funding round that reads like a who’s who in the Virtual reality world. Its aim is to bring holograms to the masses. This doesn’t actually mean what it says, but it’s still pretty cool.

To most of us, a hologram is something that stands in front of us, created in the thin air, which behaves like a person, animal or thing and is viewable in 3D. It is a photographic recording of a light field, usually created using a laser and can be viewed from any angle like a real object.

If holograms were easy to make, and could work in any lighting situation, they would become the main way of viewing Virtual Reality. But mass production is a big issue. What 8i actually does, perhaps as a step towards this, is get a computer to drive 3D calculations of what an object would look like and lets it appear inside a video, when it was actually not there.

Its website shows videos of people interacting with babies, dancing men and monsters, as if they had been in the same room together. So, while they can produce the video image from any angle, it is only shown in film from the angle you are currently filming from. As the cameraman walks about a person, the “hologram” is also walked around, and appears like a 3D image inside the movie.

In effect, it is a way of merging reality with unreality, which is perfect for augmenting reality (or to mix real things with things which are not real) in a movie – cheaply. It also allows you to show them on a phone. It is clear that everyone loves this and 8i got its first US VC funding of $13.5m in October 2015 from a series of US VCs, but including Samsung, Dolby and Bertelsmann’s VC arms.

This round it has drawn interest from the VC arms of Time Warner, China’s Baidu, Hearst, Verizon and another batch of mostly US pure VC firms. This round was for $27m, and we presume the valuation was higher this time around.

The company creates 3D content by capturing live video of real persons using multiple video cameras and then turning that data into what it insists on calling a hologram – but is in fact a 3D digital movie insert.

"You’ll dance with Beyonce in your living room, virtually test drive a Tesla with Elon Musk, and watch your home team from your sofa with your favorite athlete by your side," said co-founder Linc Gasking on the company’s Facebook profile.

End users right now can only experience this on Oculus Rift headsets and it says that applications include virtual filming, sales, education, and online dating. We're not sure you would want a 3D version of your online date in the room before you actually met them.

What this really is a cheap and clever way of making VR content, filming the "Hologram" separately from the VR content, using multiple cameras, and then putting it through 8i's algorithms so that it is ready to be inserted into VR content.

The company has a production studio in Hollywood and offices in Wellington and San Francisco.

8i demonstrated its system last week at the Code Media conference in California. 8i says it is now introducing Holo, a consumer mobile app that gives people an easy way to create mixed reality content with "holograms" of their favourite celebrities, brands, and characters. It is currently opening up the app to the creative community, so don’t expect any content made with it for a while.

"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. "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 US, China, Europe, and Australia as we bring our technology to consumers worldwide."

Baidu is clearly coming on board in order to get this product into China, and said so at the event. Holo is powered by Google's Tango application, an augmented reality app from Google and the final system will first go live on Tango enabled smartphones.

8i has a Studios partner program which 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, to be easily integrated into a VR experience.

8i says its team has decades of experience with employees from Weta Digital, YouTube, Nvidia, Google, Valve, Microsoft, PayPal, Sony, DreamWorks, Pixar, Bell Laboratories, Viacom, Xero, Twitter, Yahoo, and Zynga.

Copyright © 2016, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Demand for PC and smartphone chips drops 'like a rock' says CEO of China’s top chipmaker
    Markets outside China are doing better, but at home vendors have huge component stockpiles

    Demand for chips needed to make smartphones and PCs has dropped "like a rock" – but mostly in China, according to Zhao Haijun, the CEO of China's largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

    Speaking on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call last Friday, Zhao said smartphone makers currently have five months inventory to hand, so are working through that stockpile before ordering new product. Sales of PCs, consumer electronics and appliances are also in trouble, the CEO said, leaving some markets oversupplied with product for now. But unmet demand remains for silicon used for Wi-Fi 6, power conversion, green energy products, and analog-to-digital conversion.

    Zhao partly attributed sales slumps to the Ukraine war which has made the Russian market off limits to many vendors and effectively taken Ukraine's 44 million citizens out of the global market for non-essential purchases.

    Continue reading
  • Colocation consolidation: Analysts look at what's driving the feeding frenzy
    Sometimes a half-sized shipping container at the base of a cell tower is all you need

    Analysis Colocation facilities aren't just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

    But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that's driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

    "You can only provide those value-added services if you're big enough," Forrester research director Glenn O'Donnell said.

    Continue reading
  • D-Wave deploys first US-based Advantage quantum system
    For those that want to keep their data in the homeland

    Quantum computing outfit D-Wave Systems has announced availability of an Advantage quantum computer accessible via the cloud but physically located in the US, a key move for selling quantum services to American customers.

    D-Wave reported that the newly deployed system is the first of its Advantage line of quantum computers available via its Leap quantum cloud service that is physically located in the US, rather than operating out of D-Wave’s facilities in British Columbia.

    The new system is based at the University of Southern California, as part of the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center hosted at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a factor that may encourage US organizations interested in evaluating quantum computing that are likely to want the assurance of accessing facilities based in the same country.

    Continue reading
  • Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants
    US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act

    The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022