HBO and Discovery invest in Otoy

Hollywood is mesmerized by the Jules Urbach vision of holographic virtual reality content.

Cloud-based graphics rendering expert Otoy is reporting that Home Box Office and Discovery Communications have both taken an undisclosed equity stake in Otoy. The total of venture capital in the Los Angeles software vendor is now $101 million, at a reported valuation of $300 million.

Otoy says the investment will be used to develop and distribute “original holographic content … across TV, mobile, web, social, and emerging wearable technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.”

Entertainer Jon Stewart is already working with Otoy on content development. A statement released by Otoy includes a statement from Stewart: “Otoy is unbelievable! It’s a limitless mind-blowing platform. My dream is to someday understand how they did it!”

Otoy founder and CEO Jules Urbach says the future of media “is not going to be restrained by a screen, nor consumed through monolithic apps or platforms. Otoy’s mission is to make holographic and immersive content a mass market proposition for consumers, artists, and publishers alike. A key part of this endeavor is unifying production and delivery of content across all possible endpoints, from HTML5, to TV and social, to wearables.”

Improvements to the OctaneRender 3 volumetric rendering engine makes particulate matter with varying densities easier to render. (Source: Otoy)
Otoy’s OctaneRender includes volumetric rendering, a complicated piece of algorithmic magic. The challenge now is to make such complex rendering work in a real-time holographic display environment. (Source: Otoy)

What do we think?

Otoy consistently punches above its weight class. It has only a few products in the traditional sense, led by the powerful cloud-and-GPU-based OctaneRender. Some of its technology is only available by making special licensing arrangements. But its small footprint in the marketplace hasn’t stopped Otoy from dazzling Silicon Valley and Hollywood with its vision. The Otoy advisor board includes Google’s Eric Schmidt, former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, and noted economist and early Internet champion George Gilder. Major shareholders include Autodesk and Yuri Milner, a Russian investor whose previous investments include Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb.

To meet Jules Urbach is to understand why Silicon Valley and Hollywood are lining up to invest. He is soft-spoken but unafraid to explain how his software is revolutionary and game-changing. He is founder and CEO, but also part of the programming team. It is hard to walk away from a conversation with him and not be caught up in the vision of holographic presentation as a norm for the future.

But not every new technology connected with virtuality will be the next mass media platform. There is considerable momentum behind the 360-degree 3D technology driving content creation for the new wave of head-mounted displays. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.