PORTL Closes $3M Raise, First COO; Reports 100 Hologram-ish Units Sold
November 2, 2020 by Dave Haynes
The LA startup that uses a highly optimized transparent LCD displays and enclosures to create life-sized, hologram-ish visual effects has completed a new $3 million fundraising round that will be used, in part, to devlop a small desktop version for content creators.
Watching a video like this is the best way to explain PORTL, but think of a shooting a person standing in front of a well-lit white background screen, and that image recorded or relayed in real-time to a life-sized, shower stall-dimension enclosure that has LED side-lighting and a transparent LED screen.
With that well-considered lighting and the use of shadows, the result is a visual effect that looks very much like the subject person is standing in that stall. The idea is to use this for everything from museums and exhibits to conference presentations and political speeches.
The money comes in from well-known venture investor Tim Draper, former Electronic Arts executive Doug Barry and longtime awards-show producer Joe Lewis.
Barry is also joining the firm as its first COO. The company is run by David Nussbaum, who spoke about his background and ideas behind this in a 16:9 podcast earlier this year.
Nussbaum told TechCrunch the display unit costs about $60,000, and that PORTL has sold about 100 devices and already delivered several dozen to shopping malls, airports and movie theater lobbies.
He also said PORTL wants to build a miniature version for desktops that could be used by creators to record, test and distribute to full-sized PORTLS – a variation on what content companies when they set up, for example, a client’s menu displays in its studio to see how work really looks.
“The minis will have all of the features to capture your content and rotoscope you out of our background and have the studio effects that is important in displaying your realistic volumetric like effect and they will beam you to any other device,” Nussbaum told TechCrunch.
“The minis will be bundled with content like Peloton and Mirror bundled with very specific types of content. We are in conversations with a number of extremely well-known content creators where we would bundle a portal but will also have dedicated and exclusive content… [and] bundle that for $39 to $49 per month.”
I have not seen these units in person, and who knows when things like business travel will be back on. But the videos Nussbaum does are very persuasive in suggesting they look really good.
The awareness level for this outside of the technology ecosystem is likely still quite low. But you could imagine within a couple of years that these will be used for fixed exhibits that are a step well beyond animatronics and for live events that can make it easy for people to appear, even if they con’t have the time or inclination to get on a plane and chew up 1-3 days to make it happen.
Here’s the podcast I did: