Movie star Ashton Kutcher and Samsung are among the group of global investors backing a Wellington-founded virtual reality company 8i to the tune of $20 million.
The company, co-founded by Linc Gasking in May last year, has developed a platform that enables users to create, experience and share lifelike 3D video using a virtual reality headset.
It would be using the funding, from venture firms, including Kutcher's Sound Ventures, RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures and Dolby Family Ventures, to hire staff and fund growth.
"8i records people in a new, more advanced approach than cinematic 3D, allowing viewers to move around freely and experience an authentic feeling of emotional connection with the person they're watching," Gasking said.
Technology blog TechCrunch said 8i was opening a studio in Los Angeles that they plan to let content creators use for free.
"I didn't want to do games. I wanted that human connection. I wanted to tell stories and connect with people in a three dimensional way," Gasking told TechCrunch.
Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures, who led the investment round and who has joined the 8i board, said what 8i had achieved was seen as "the holy grail" of virtual reality.
Gasking began the company after trying an Oculus Rift headset and deciding he could enable users to generate content. He said possible uses for the headset included being able to virtually walk into an online store and view clothes and products.
Gasking expected uptake to grow significantly in the coming year as the number of headset sales grew.
Kutcher is the most prolific tech investor in Hollywood, with seed and venture capital investments in a total of 70 startups, according to CB Insights. His investments include AirBnB, FourSquare, and Zenefits.
The 37-year-old began investing in tech in 2009 and has gained deep connections in the industry.
He co-founded venture firm Sound Ventures - which also counts Madonna and U2 manager Guy Oseary as partners - in March.