Bristol-based Ultrahaptics has raised £17.9 million ($23 million) for the development of its mid-air touch technology in augmented and virtual reality. Its ultrasound-based haptics tech allows the sense of touch to be added into virtual experiences, allowing you to feel objects that aren’t really there.
The company has opened an office in Silicon Valley with five people, and expects to expand that to 15 by the end of the year, says Anders Hakfelt, VP of marketing. The funding will see the current headcount of 60 staff double in the next 12 to 18 months as the company brings together different ultrasonic sensor arrays, detection systems and controllers.
“The global VR and AR markets offer phenomenal potential for us”
“This year we will turn over multi-million pound revenues and grow to over 100 people” said Steve Cliffe, CEO of Ultrahaptics (above). “The global VR and AR markets offer phenomenal potential for us, and I’m looking forward to growing the team even more, building our global presence and becoming a world leader in tech.”
Magic touch tech: A young VR World Congress attendee trials the Ultrahaptics VR spell-casting demo. As c0-founder Tom Carter said at the conference, “Providing the sense of touch in VR makes it feel real – it let’s you really believe you are a wizard!”
The new funding comes from existing shareholders, IP Group and Woodford Investment Management, as well as new investors, including Cornes and Dolby Family Ventures. The company has now raised nearly £30m.
“VR is a very exciting area and it’s all about the experience really,” said Hakfelt. He expects the technology to be used first in more static environments such as arcades and theme parks as well as the AR enterprise market before making its way into consumer VR equipment.
“We have invested in Ultrahaptics for its potential to enable completely new experiences and user interfaces. We are very impressed by the team, its strong IP portfolio, and by the many applications for this technology,” said David Dolby of Dolby Family Ventures.
Ultrahaptics’ technology uses ultrasound to project sensations through the air, directly onto a user’s hand and the company has developed concept vehicles with both Bosch in Germany and Harman in the US. Harman is owned by Samsung which is also a major player in AR and VR. The technology can also be used for industrial controls and medical interfaces as well as AR and VR environments.
You can see the technology being demonstrated here