Ashton Kutcher among investors in NZ's 8i to launch 3D hologram app
Wellington technology company 8i has raised US$27 million (NZ$37.6m) from a raft of celebrity investors, to fund a new app which will add holograms to real life.
The new round, which brings the company's total funding to US$41m (NZ$57.1m), was led by Time Warner Investments, as well as existing investors which include Ashton Kutcher and Madonna's manager Guy Oseary.
8i, which has offices in the capital and Los Angeles, will use the funding to develop a platform allowing users to add holograms to their real-world environments, and take videos and photos they can share with friends through social media and messaging apps.
"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," 8i chief executive Steve Raymond said.
"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."
8i was founded in Wellington by Joshua Feast, Linc Gasking and former Weta digital staffer Eugene d'Eon in May 2014.
It has since expanded to Los Angeles with a new studio in Culver City.
Time Warner Investments managing director Scott Levine said with virtual reality and augmented reality, the world was witnessing the "very beginning of a new generation of immersive media".
"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."
Holo is in its testing stage at the moment, with 8i assessing how users interact with the new technology and a limited selection of sample 3D holograms.
The company plans to officially launch a new version of the app with content partners and programming later this year on Tango-enabled smartphones, and other mobile devices.