With the rapid development of VR and AR technologies, we have experienced fascinating virtual environments, but in terms of haptic feedbacks and vivid feelings, the market still lacks practical and mature solutions.
Ultrahaptics, which was founded in 2013 based on technology originally developed at the University of Bristol, has developed technology that uses ultrasound to virtually create 3D objects and real-life sensations so that users can get feedback from touchless buttons by seemingly gesturing in midair. Its technology will enhance user experience so that VR and AR-related products look just like what we have seen in sci-fi movies for years.
Truly unique technology
Ultrahaptics launched a development kit called UHDK5 TOUCH last year, which included a complete hardware and software package that can be used in product designs and test results. According to TechCrunch writer Lucas Matney, who tried the kit a couple months ago, despite Ultrahaptics still being “in the early stages of finding use cases for its tech,” the technology it’s offering is “definitely an interesting solution to some tired problems.”
With such unique and sci-fi-like technology, Ultrahaptics draws attention from many investors in related fields, and on May 4, Ultrahaptics announced on its official blog that it had raised $23 million in just its B round of funding. Dolby Family Ventures and Cornes both participated in this round, along with Woodford Investment Management and IP Group, who already invested in Ultrahaptics in its $15.6 million A round of funding.
This recent funding marks not only a large milestone for the firm, but also for the landscape of user input relating to haptics. According to the data provided by VB Profiles in their “User Input – Haptics” market, Ultrahaptics’ B round makes up almost a fourth of all investments — $101 million — in this market. In fact, the money raised by Ultrahaptics in all its funding rounds makes up 41% of all funding in User Input – Haptics with the heavy majority of the remaining funding being raised by Immersion.
Immersion, a publicly traded company, is one of Ultrahaptics’ strongest competitors in the User Input – Haptics market; it has raised the most money in the market thus far — over $50 million. However, Immersion has had nearly no headcount growth in the last two years, while Ultrahaptics has experienced nearly 300% growth according to LinkedIn data.
Shifting to smart vehicles
Because of its gains in virtual technology, funding from investors and rapid extension, Ultrahaptics is now shifting its focus more to smart vehicles, hoping it can implement its ultrawave technology and midair gesture feedback system in drivers’ dashboards. With this technology, drivers can release their hands from controlling infotainment and audio systems, all while paying more attention to the road.
During the CES in Las Vegas early this year, it was revealed that the firm’s solution was used in BMW’s new virtual touchscreen system, HoloActive Touch. In February, Harman, which was acquired last year by the Samsung Group, partnered with Ultrahaptics to develop a better midair haptic feedback system and to enhance the driving experience with smart cars.
The positive effects from Ultrahaptics’ new funding will drive its developing process more smoothly, and as a result, we should expect more practical and useful solutions for VR and AR related fields in the near future.