Investors are putting more fuel behind Omnivor, a Seattle startup gaining traction with its 3D holographic content media production platform.
Sway Ventures led a $2.7 million seed round, which included participation from Kernel Labs, the Seattle startup studio that spun out Omnivor, along with other angel investors. Total funding in the 4-year-old company is $5.5 million.
Omnivor is riding the pandemic-driven trend of more companies accelerating their digital technology adoption. Late last year the 8-person company launched Holograms for Retail, a new product being used by Nike that lets online customers use holograms to see how various products fit and look.
It also rolled out Live Holographic Telepresence, a separate product aimed at companies hosting virtual meetings, working in tandem with T-Mobile and its 5G network capabilities. Omnivor recently graduated from the 5G Open Innovation Lab, a T-Mobile backed program for startups.
“Physicality is being questioned at every interaction, from working and shopping, to learning and communicating,” Najib Khouri-Haddad, general partner at Sway Ventures, said in a statement. “Omnivor has the potential to become a powerful platform in this new reality.”
Omnivor CEO Adam Kirk said early usage numbers from retailers are promising.
“Shoppers are able to see the product on their terms, which creates a lot more trust in the product,” he noted.
Similar technology using digital avatars is gaining steam in the video games and entertainment industries. Games such as Animal Crossing and Rec Room have been hugely popular during the pandemic as people are limited in their ability to socialize physically. Los Angeles startup Wave raised $30 million last year to host virtual concerts.
Last year Omnivor helped Israel President Reuven Rivlin speak to constituents to celebrate Israeli Independence Day.
Researchers have been working on volumetric video for several years, but the technology is becoming more accessible for startups such as Omnivor, 8i, 4dviews, DepthKit, and others. Jaunt was one of the larger players, having raised more than $100 million, but sold its assets to Disney in 2019.
Kirk joined Kernel in 2015 as its vice president of engineering after nearly five years at Microsoft and has kept that role while leading Omnivor. He earned his Ph.D in computer science from the University of California-Berkeley in 2010.
Other companies out of Kernel include Blue Canoe Learning, Occo, Trusted Key, which sold to Workday in 2019, and AnswerIQ, which sold to Freshworks last year.
Here’s an example of a volumetric video interview with Kirk that Mekhato did in 2019:
To rotate the figure click, hold, and drag.