A new consumer media platform for the virtual reality (VR) generation, 8i, has raised $20 million from global technology investors.
Founded in Wellington, funding for the startup comes from RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Dolby Family Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Sound Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Inevitable Ventures, Freelands and Advancit Capital, among others.
“As the Internet transitions to 3D with adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality platforms, we want to give people the best way to connect in this new medium,” 8i founder and CEO, Linc Gasking, said.
“8i records people in a new, more advanced approach than cinematic 3D, allowing viewers to move around freely and experience an authentic feeling of emotional connection with the person they’re watching. A young mother recorded a heartfelt message to her baby, a musician captured an intimate unplugged session, a woman created the first VR dating profile. We’re excited to see how creators will take this next step in the evolution of media.”
8i is building a consumer media platform that enables users to create, experience and share immersive lifelike 3D video of real people. Its proprietary software transforms regular video from off-the-shelf cameras into realistic experiences for VR, AR (augmented reality), and the Web.
The company claims to be the first to enable true 3D (fully volumetric) video of people, enabling freedom to move around in a VR environment, while delivering the realism of human movements, face and hair, faster than other existing technology.
“We are big believers in 8i’s unique technology, stellar team, and long-term vision,” said Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures who led the investment round and joins Scott Nolan (Founders Fund) on the 8i board. “What they have achieved is what media companies see as the holy grail of virtual reality. I’m excited to see what the next generation is going to create with it.
Nolan said, “8i’s breakthroughs enable realistic 3D video capture of people for the first time ever. With human-centric content now past the ‘uncanny valley’, we can’t wait to see VR and AR powered by 8i take off in applications far beyond gaming.”
8i’s team of visual effects and technology leaders hail from Weta Digital, YouTube, NVIDIA, PayPal, Microsoft Research, Sony Computer Entertainment, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar and Valve (the company behind HTC Vive).
The company is also rapidly expanding its engineering team, particularly in its R&D hub in Wellington, a breeding ground for talent across computer vision and graphics, data compression, Cloud infrastructure, software and design.
Other investors in 8i include Kevin Wall, Jeremy Stoppelman, John and Andrew Hendricks, End Cue and Kortschak Investments, ICE Angels, as well as VR investors Rothenberg Ventures and Boost VC.
8i also announced the opening of a showcase studio in Culver City, Los Angeles, plugging the company directly into the global hub of entertainment.
8i plans to offer free access to the recording studios in addition to community events such as workshops, demonstrations and introductions to the technology.