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HBO and Discovery are partnering with a startup to develop holograms

Going beyond the TV screen

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

HBO and Discovery Communications announced today that they are partnering with 3D-graphics startup OTOY — both companies taking equity stakes. The partnership marks an effort by the two networks to evolve entertainment experiences beyond two dimensional television. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and even holograms were all highlighted as areas OTOY would help its traditional media partners explore.

Get ready to hang with holographic Jon Stewart

Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who signed a 4-year deal with HBO last year, is already working with OTOY to produce "timely" short-form videos for HBO Now. The prospect of leveraging OTOY's expertise for VR and AR content excites him. "OTOY is unbelievable! It's a limitless mind-blowing creative platform," Stewart said in a statement. "My dream is to someday understand how they did it!!!"

OTOY's 360-degree holographic system allows you to use a mobile device's camera to capture people, objects, and scenes and then send the video information to be encoded in the cloud. Video producers can then display a 360-degree view based on video stills or, presumably, a holographic projection.

Founded in 2009, OTOY is only now stepping into the spotlight. The cloud graphics company is regarded as a pioneer in creating real-time, lifelike 3D environments. Its advisory board members include Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, and former chairman, CEO and president of IBM, Samuel J. Palmisano. The company is valued at over $300 million, The New York Times reported.

TV knows it must push toward virtual and augmented reality

The move by HBO and Discovery comes at a time when cable TV ratings are in sharp decline. As they battle for attention, companies are gravitating toward more experimental mediums like virtual and augmented reality, hoping to find fresh ways to grab consumer attention.