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Toni Moyes

COO, 8i

Nestled in Culver Studios, the Disruption crew sets up on Stage Eight—the soundstage behind Gone with The Wind, Citizen Kane and, yes, Legally Blonde. But the reason for our visit on this crisp September Thursday is, sadly, not a Reese Witherspoon blockbuster; it’s the debut interview of our Los Angeles issue.

8i is a virtual and augmented reality startup,” says chief operating officer Toni Moyes. “But unlike other companies, we focus on one piece of the puzzle: creating the most realistic synthetic humans.”

Historically, this has been achieved with computer generated imagery (CGI). It’s how we experienced Paul Walker’s postmortem farewell in Furious 7 (a mix of CGI and Walker’s brothers) and how we met the infamous Gollum in Lord of The Rings (CGI overlaid over actor Andy Serkis). But no matter how advanced or groundbreaking, CGI beings continue to be awkward and even occasionally creepy—they lack that indefinable human quality.

“They don’t move quite right,” explains Moyes. “…So, not only is CGI incredibly expensive, but it’s also often eerie and uncomfortable to watch.”

8i believes that the most realistic humans can be achieved with holograms—holograms that are then dropped into anything from a movie to a product demonstration to a blog post. And when you consider their equipment works with any camera—including your iPhone—that means content that is not only high quality, but also democratic and accessible to all.

Making both augmented and virtual reality human

“8i uses holograms to enable the future of human communication and expression… Imagine software that can take footage from any videocamera and then create a holographic file—a holographic human that’s volumetric and 3-D, allowing the audience to walk around them and experience as if in real life. That human can then be dropped into all kinds of content, whether that’s a beauty product tutorial or the music video of a favorite recording artist. It can even capture great thinkers like President Barack Obama so that future generations can ‘meet’ today’s leaders. The implications are limitless.”

What is your company's mission?

“CGI humans never look right… they don’t move quite correctly… And since it’s also incredibly expensive, there’s a massive limit on how much of this content can be created. CGI is beyond the grasp of most content creators, and that’s what we’re trying to disrupt. 8i’s mission is certainly to create the most realistic synthetic humans, but it’s also to make them accessible to everyone. And that’s achieved through our software’s agnostic capabilities and the scalability of our tools.”

How is your software superior to CGI?


“Our software is much more scalable [than anything else on the market]… It helps transform these emerging kinds of content into technology that isn’t just for big brands and film studios, but which everyone can use. Think of how the home videocamera changed everything—it gave people the ability to record and show images of lifelike humans. 8i is achieving a similar idea but on the next level.”

Is it fair to say you've democratized virtual reality?

“Because 8i enables volumetric 3-D imaging, you can actually walk around people in AR and VR—we’ve added the element of depth. It’s a completely different experience than 2-D and gives you an unprecedented feeling of connectedness. And at the end of the day, that’s what truly excites us: Creating a feeling of humanness in a digital world.”

Other than scalability, how do you differentiate from competitors?


“There’s obviously a huge opportunity for advertisers. We’ve created amazing tutorial content for beauty brands, for example. Then there’s archival VR, which is all about capturing the messages of wise people and then saving it for future generations. But one of the largest uptake industries is entertainment, and that’s a large part of the reason we’ve chosen to bring our New Zealand-based company to LA. This city has such incredible talent when it comes to content creation.”

Who do you hope will use your product?

“8i is a company that exists to serve two demographics: content creators and communities that love to consume content. So, it’s no surprise that we’re here in LA. It’s a global hub for content creation and a really natural home for us.”

Is that why your company has settled here?


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