8i will make R2D2's holograms look bad with its smartphone app. Image: GetMovieNews.

8i, a New Zealand VR and AR startup, has just announced a new app called Holo. Currently in beta on Google’s Tango devices, Holo lets users see and interact with holograms of real things and people directly while taking pictures or video.

The announcement came along with the news that the company just closed its Series B funding round. 8i raised $27 million from investors including Time Warner Investments, Verizon Ventures, and Baidu Ventures from China.

The firm has caught the interest of many in the tech industry for their unique approach to “make VR human” with a new image capture technology dubbed volumetric 3D video.

What is Holo and how does it work?

Holo is a mixed reality app that fuses real pictures and video with uniquely captured holograms of people, animals, and things. Users can place the holograms in the frame and move freely around them as if they were real elements.

Tech enthusiasts believe the company is building the next big thing in VR and AR technologies by making it easily accessible to anyone with a smartphone. In other words, no headset nor PC required.

Volumetric 3D video is an image capture technique that works differently from regular 360 videos commonly used in VR and AR. Through this method, people can get close to the projection or hologram from any angle and not from a fixed position.

Closeness and interaction make the difference when trying to infuse some reality into virtual spaces and environments. 8i is previewing the upcoming app in Tango-based smartphones such as the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. It will launch in a limited set of devices later this year.

8i is preparing to change the industry

Founded in 2014 in New Zealand, 8i will soon raise the bar for VR and AR companies looking to break into the industry all around the world.

Companies interested in the startup’s work include RRE Ventures, Founders Fund, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and most recently Verizon, Time Warner, and Baidu Ventures.

Out of the bunch, the most interesting is for sure Time Warner. The media emporium comprises not only Warner Bros. but also HBO, and they surely want to expand their reach by putting holograms of their characters in people’s smartphones if they can.

8i has said it has business plans along these lines, offering a roster of holographic characters and elements in partnership with some of its backers once the Holo app launches.

An early taste of the technology was available in a mixed reality display at the Sundance Film Festival featuring a hologram of Jon Hamm, and SXSW will have a similar experience with Buzz Aldrin starring in a Mars VR film.

Source: Fast Company