The holograms are coming, the holograms are coming.
At the Sundance Film Festival last month, moviegoers attending the premiere of Marjorie Prime, a movie starring Jon Hamm about a service that provides holographic recreations, were given the opportunity to hang out with an actual Hamm hologram. And those at next month’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, will be able to watch a holographic Buzz Aldrin in a virtual reality film about Mars.
And later this year, just about anyone will have a chance to interact with realistic human holograms on their mobile phones.
That’s all thanks to Holo, the new app announced today by the mixed reality startup 8i, which is a pioneer in what’s known as volumetric capture, a technology that allows VR and AR content creators to integrate photo-realistic human avatars in their projects.
With Holo, 8i is hoping that a wide variety of creators, including musicians, celebrities, brands, and more will be able to release content featuring holograms. The idea, explained CEO Steve Raymond, is that those creators could “put a hologram of someone famous, funny, or talented, in [their own] environments and create [their own] short-form videos [to] share out to social.”
The Holo announcement goes hand in hand with news that 8i has closed a $27 million B round of funding, led by Time Warner Investments, bringing the Los Angeles company’s total funding raised to date to $41 million. Other participants in the new round included Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, and more.
The funding is intended to bolster 8i’s efforts across all its initiatives, from VR to AR. “We’ve got a broad vision for 3D photo-realistic people and content that is bigger than just VR or AR,” Raymond said. “It’s really all 3D computing going forward, and that means we need to have the [most realistic-looking] people…and a cloud-processing capability that can scale, and distribution and content partners that can help us show the power” of the platform.
For some time, 8i has been testing a beta version of Holo on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, a device that features Tango, an AR technology created by Google. Later this year, 8i plans on releasing Holo publicly on Tango phones, as well as a selection of other mobile devices. At that point, the app will showcase holograms integrated into branded content from some of 8i’s partners.
For now, all the holograms have to be created at 8i’s own capture stage in Los Angeles, since that’s where the company has all of its proprietary volumetric capture equipment and technology set up. But Raymond said that over time, because the company has built a cloud-based content capture pipeline, there’s no reason other professional stages couldn’t be set up, alleviating a bottleneck of content creation.
The long-term vision, he added, is that anyone could buy the equipment necessary to set up their own capture stage.