Hologram Raises $6.5 Million for Blockchain-Based Avatars You Can Use in Video Calls

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Hologram, an all-in-one platform for virtual creatures, today announced that it has raised $6.5 million in seed money for avatars you can use in video calls.

The goal is to make avatars move between apps, just as you would expect in the Metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds all connected together, as in novels like Snowfall and Borrow player one.

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The San Francisco-based company allows you to use images or non-interchangeable characters (NFTs) as avatars, and you can use those avatars to introduce yourself as a lip-synced character in a Zoom or Google Meet call. I did an interview with CEO Tong Pow, and he used his avatar all the time. So I don’t know if it was real or not. Pow calls this “pseudonymous economics”. It gives some use to those Bored Apes and other NFT images that many people now criticize for being hype.

Polychain Capital led the round, with participation from Nascent, Inflection, The Operating Group, Quantstamp, Neon DAO, Foothill Ventures and South Park Commons.

Other angel investors include Mike Shinoda (co-founder of Linkin Park and advisor to Warner Records), Kalos (founder of Parallel NFT), Richard Ma (founder of Quantstamp), and Naveen Jain (founder of Yat Labs).

The company (dba Hologram Labs) will use the money to expand the team with several key recruits and increase its ability to support the growing influx of partnership requests.

Tong Pow’s avatar.

Hologram builds technology to give people more ways to express themselves and socialize in the pseudonymous economy, Pow said.

By leveraging the latest advancements in machine learning, 3D and Web3, Hologram empowers any online community to create, own and interact with immersive virtual people, goods and experiences at scale. With one click, users can connect with others, create content and grow their brand on any video or game platform, such as Zoom, Twitch, VR chat and hundreds of other digital characters.

After a successful launch with the Anata NFT community in April, Hologram is already integrating its technology with more than 10 NFT communities, including popular projects such as Cool Cats, Deadfellaz and Crypto Covens. This strategic cycle will allow Hologram to expand its offering to many more creators and online communities in the coming months.

“Hologram delivers exactly what we promised our community – magic,” the Crypto Covens team said in a statement. “Part of the appeal of profile picture NFTs is to take on an identity that you find beautiful, remarkable, powerful and WITCH holograms go beyond what we could have imagined. They are the perfect channel for community building, role-playing and immersive magic.

desktop hologram
Hologram allows you to use NFTs as avatars.

“Much of the magic of web3 comes from experimenting with the identity that was so common in the early days of the Internet and combining it with the technologies we’ve developed over the years!” Xuannu, the founder of Crypto Covens, said in a statement. “The hologram has led us to have pseudonymous identities with a wealth of expression that I honestly could never have imagined.”

Pow and Hongzi Mao, co-founders of Hologram, began work on the project in December 2021. Prior to Hologram, Pow built consumer-centric crypto products in 0x Labs and 3D digital twin apps in ML robotics startup, while Mao explored the machine. learning and video processing in places like DeepMind and MIT, with thousands of citations to his credit.

After meeting at South Park Commons, they launched Hologram and made rapid strides in product development and partnership to become the solution to bring online communities and brands to life.

Hologram said it was building an all-in-one platform for virtual creatures. By leveraging the latest advances in 3D, machine learning, and web3, Hologram empowers any online community to create and interact with immersive digital people, goods, and experiences at scale. Users can connect with others online, create content and build their brand on any video or game platform with one click, such as Zoom, Twitch, VR chat and hundreds of other digital characters.

“It means building the authoring framework to enable any online community to create digital personas, wearables and unique digital assets at scale,” said Pow. “And also by building the tools that allow any user to become their virtual personas and visual identity with a single click on any video platform.”

Founders of holograms
Hologram founders Hongzi Mao (left) and Tong Pow.

Pow notes that the promise of the metaverse is to create worlds where you can be whoever you want.

“And so the idea of ​​pseudonymity. And we’re really, we’re really taking that angle,” Pow said. “So starting with video, the most accessible and engaging medium for communication and self-expression, we’re basically building the infrastructure layer so that everyone can become their digital identity.”

Currently, the company supports both 2D and 3D avatars. Pow thinks avatars help create a sense of presence, that you’ve been transported to another place in the metaverse. And it makes sense to use NFT art and other images that people see as representative of their personality. Still, video calls force people to show themselves in front of the camera, which makes some people uncomfortable.

For Google Meet calls, Hologram has created a Chrome extension that allows the app to see avatars associated with a crypto wallet. So it can see what NFTs you have, and then it can take one of those avatars and turn them into what the company calls “holograms.” Then Hologram brings that image to life as an animated avatar, and it can lip-sync the character’s mouth as you speak.

Thanks to the partnerships, users now have access to tens of thousands of avatars they have created across platforms.

“What we sell directly is useful to your NFTs,” Pow said.

The company generates revenue through its partnerships with various NFT and avatar creators. Ultimately, she hopes to be able to earn consumers direct money with their adjustments. The company hopes to eventually make collections of avatars available to other users, with their permission.

As for leagues like Ready Player Me or Genies, Pow is excited.

“I’m very happy that there are more avatar companies that are creating their own IP, their own brands,” he said. “With Hologram, we really think about supporting and expressing you, and enabling that in immersive experiences.”

Hologram also hopes to score points with influencers and Vtubers, or the virtual personas people use to express their personality on live streams and recorded videos. Vtubers have really taken off in Asia.

The company now has a team of six people and is looking for people.

The company has contracts that require users to respect intellectual property, so it is not acceptable to use avatars that infringe someone else’s copyright without permission. Hologram will have to enforce this.

Growing up in Shenzhen, China, Pow loved to play Chinese massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and he considered them the metaverse when he was young. The main fantasy was to become someone else in a virtual world. By extending this to the current idea of ​​the metaverse, be it on 2D screens, virtual reality or augmented reality, Pow finds the self-expression part even more important.

“I believe those identities really matter,” Pow said.

Pow admits that he is very steeped in science fiction and crypto culture, which is why wearing an avatar is completely normal for him and his friends. He might feel embarrassed showing his real face during work conversations, and he thinks a lot of people feel that way. On the other hand, business meetings often require trust, so business people may want to show their true selves. Pow points out that many people are recognizable for the work they’ve done and their reputation, so they may not need to show their faces during phone calls.

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