The Austin, TX-based touch technology firm SigmaSense has completed and announced a $22 million Series A funding round, saying the capital infusion will help make the company a major player in the field.
The company’s semiconductor tech and software is mainly about high-fidelity touch accuracy, but in the midst of the pandemic, the press release headline and narrative calls out the ability to make touchscreens touchless, using its hover technology.
The funding is primarily from companies who would be suppliers or partners – notably Foxconn Technology Group, Corning, E Ink, GIS and MRI (managing partner of LG-MRI). Dell’s former CFO also participated in the round.
I first saw this company at DSE about 18 months ago, at the LG-MRI stand. CEO Bill Dunn pulled me over to see a touch tabletop that was reading and in real-time visualizing the sensing and pressure of touch interactions, as a means of showing its high sensitivity and accuracy on a large display surface.
That sensing can happen even with quite thick protective glass, meaning things like public information and “smart city” kiosks can function and work well for things like interactive directories and wayfinding. It can also read touch while people are wearing gloves, which may not be a big ask in Austin, Texas but would be in Austin, Minnesota in January.
There’s a video page on the company site that demos some of the tech, including hover (contactless)
Says the PR:
SigmaSense intends to leverage these strategic and investor relationships to make its touch solutions the preeminent standard in the high-growth $4.7 billion touch controller market—part of the larger $100+ billion global display market that spans from mobile phones and laptops to large interactive digital signage and whiteboards. This financing will speed the development of SigmaSense’s semiconductor and software solutions for a breakthrough generation of high-fidelity sensing data enabling new human-machine interactions.
Amidst a broader set of future applications, SigmaSense technology will show up everywhere—from in-person touchless order kiosks for the hospitality industry to home entertainment—including reimagined interactive at-home learning and work spaces. The COVID-19 health pandemic has created a strong market demand for touchless technology to mitigate human contact and safeguard health. SigmaSense technology will power all these scenarios and provide an infinite amount of vertical integration possibilities. These opportunities include sensing in automobiles, consumer devices, medical products and industrial applications.
“This financing, and the powerful syndicate behind it, provide a strong endorsement of SigmaSense’s technology breakthrough and the impact across market opportunities,” said Rick Seger, SigmaSense’s CEO. “Our team has spent years developing new touch experiences that outpace the market and will shift expectations across multiple multi-billion-dollar markets. From foldable phones to large-screen game tables, our new technology provides far better experiences.”
SigmaSense enables all-new interactive user experiences with responsive controls on and above all surfaces, including non-display surfaces, at unprecedented speeds. The company’s SigmaDrive™ technology delivers 100X-1000X better signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), which translates directly to better performance, high-fidelity data and improved user experiences. SigmaHover’s touchless multi-layer interaction, which uses high hover and multidimensional sensing above the screen, is rapidly becoming an essential feature in a post-COVID world.
SigmaSense dramatically reduces overall system costs by rapidly supporting new sensor materials while greatly improving performance and responsiveness—making it ideal for gaming interactions. New conductive polymers can now be used for touch sensors in both small and large screens providing flexible touch screens and lower system costs. At the same time, noise tolerance further improves performance for tabletop and industrial applications, the type of products that benefit from Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
“SigmaSense is delivering an exciting new sensing technology and we look forward to bringing some of their amazing touch capabilities to our interactive ePaper displays,” said Johnson Lee, CEO at E Ink Holdings. “E Ink is devoted to strengthening its ePaper ecosystem. With the collaboration with SigmaSense, E Ink will be able to offer new technology to our customers to enhance their products.”
MRI, the world’s leader in outdoor digital signage through their joint venture, LG-MRI, said the reduced voltage and noise immunity properties of SigmaSense controllers are revolutionary for large-screen touch technology.
“We’ve been the leader in building ruggedized outdoor displays for years, but with the shift to interactive digital signage, all new opportunities are emerging,” said Bill Dunn, CEO of MRI. “SigmaSense performs reliably in rain, heat or cold, which is an extreme engineering challenge. Simply put, they have nailed it, by providing reliable sensing through thick, vandal-proof glass while wearing gloves.”
The SigmaHover contactless touch thing is interesting, but you are introducing a learning curve and fussiness to interactive information displays that are intended to be quick and easy. There are also other companies going down this hand-tracking path, like UltraLeap, using equipment that will likely be a LOT less costly.
However, the Hover thing would be interesting in a lot of workplace scenarios – everything from factories to surgeries – where there is a need to look up information or update a screen, but touching is difficult because the operators hands are covered in grease or chemicals, or the surgeon needs to not touch anything that hasn’t been sterilized.
For things like public information displays, I think regular touch will win the day, and people will do their thing and then whip out their little travel bottle of sanitizer.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.