2:00pm PT by Carolyn Giardina
Virtual and Augmented Reality Firm 8i Raises $27 Million
Virtual and augmented reality firm 8i on Monday announced that it raised $27 million in a series B round of funding.
The new round, which brings 8i’s total funding to $41 million, was led by Time Warner Investments, with participation from investors including Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, One Ventures and Carsten Maschmeyer’s Seed & Speed Ventures. This is the first investment in VR/AR for Baidu through its recently formed fund, Baidu Ventures. With the deal, Time Warner Investments managing director Scott Levine joins 8i’s board.
The funding will support the launch of 8i’s consumer mixed-reality app Holo. The app is being developed to give users access to a library of hologram-like moving images of celebrities and characters, which could be placed in real-world environments, viewed and shared on a supported mobile device. The celebrities are being captured on 8i’s performance-capture stage with an array of cameras, a process that 8i called its “volumetric capture.” The result allows the user to effectively walk around the celebrity.
“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,” 8i CEO Steve Raymond said in a statement. “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.”
8i is currently testing an early beta version of Holo on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro powered by Tango, an AR technology from Google. It plans to launch the app with content partners and programming later this year on Tango-enabled smartphones and other supported mobile devices.
The company's recent work includes a VR experience with Buzz Aldrin, Time Inc. and Soyant, which is slated to premiere next month at SXSW.