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Virtual-reality software start-up 8i invites content creators to Culver City studio

Virtual-reality software start-up 8i invites content creators to Culver City studio
8i explains how its technology works. (Paresh Dave)
Ready for a close-up? It’ll probably be unlike any before.
Virtual reality software company 8i Inc. announced Wednesday that it’s opening a public studio in Culver City, inviting people with interesting ideas to film in the emerging medium. The move coincides with a fresh wad of investor cash: $13.5 million.
8i is developing software for virtual reality headsets to convert people in a normal video into 3D representations. Anyone watching the recording through a headset could move their head or walk around and feel as if the person in the video was in the same room.
Earlier this summer, 8i let me get close to a (virtual) mother cradling a newborn as she recorded a loving message for her baby to watch in the future. 8i also had several YouTube stars stand in front of green screens to record many more videos. Now, 8i wants to start filling a YouTube-like app it’s developing to host virtual-reality content. It’s looking to actors, advertisers and others to record videos.
The ultimate vision is to make apps and websites something “you walk into” rather than visit, said 8i Chief Executive Linc Gasking. Viewers would get more than a “flat” shot of Tesla’s Elon Musk showcasing a car; from their living room, they could do a virtual test drive with Musk.
Gasking said the ability to feel like you’re making eye contact with a real person is "a personal connection” that investors “really bought into."

“It changes the nature of virtual reality and augmented reality from a platform for games to one that is much more mainstream,” he said. “The amount of content game companies can make is limited. It’s really going to come down to user-generated and quicker forms of content to satisfy the demand.”

8i has hired Yu Pan, one of the first software engineers at PayPal and YouTube; Eugene d'Eon, whose movie credits include graphics work on “Lord of the Rings”; and Jonathan Litt, who worked on animating Brad Pitt’s head in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Other offices are in Wellington, New Zealand and San Francisco.
8i previously raised $1 million. Investors include RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Samsung Ventures, Dolby Family Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and Yelp Chief Executive Jeremy Stoppelman.

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33

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