Ultraleap Raises $82M From Investors To Drive R&D, Sales For Touchless Interactive Tech

November 17, 2021 by Dave Haynes

Ultraleap, the UK/US tech firm that specializes in touchless interactive interfaces, has announced a big $82 million Series D investment round that will help drive R&D efforts and a push into target vertical markets.

The company, which came out of the merger of Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion, specializes in mid-air hand tracking and haptic feedback – with one of its core-use cases and  target verticals being the interactive digital signage and digital OOH worlds.

The proposition is that consumers can interact and control experiences without physically touching a surface, and in some use-cases have that bolstered by ultrasonic air blasts that provide tactile feedback (so that it feels like you are touching a button or other control that isn’t really there).

From the PR:

The raise will enable Ultraleap to further develop and commercialize its revolutionary technologies for existing and next generation computing platforms. Significant new investors including TencentBritish Patient Capital through its Future Fund: Breakthrough programme and CMB International, are joined by existing shareholders Mayfair Equity Partners and IP Group plc, who further cemented their confidence in Ultraleap by investing in the round.

Commenting on the fundraise, Tom Carter, Ultraleap CEO, said: “The metaverse concept is not new to Ultraleap. It has always been our mission to remove boundaries between physical and digital worlds. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of the term as more people now understand the power of enhancing the physical world with digital elements.

“For Ultraleap, this new era is not constrained to VR headsets. Like the internet, it is a reality we will interact with in all parts of life: at home, in the office, in cars, or out in public. Our aim with this Series D raise is to accelerate the transition to the primary interface – your hands – because there are no physical controllers, buttons or touchscreens in anyone’s vision of the metaverse.”

Jaded Editor Comment: I guess metaverse is this year’s must-somehow-work-in technology term, with alumni terms including blockchain, machine-learning and cloud.

Also from the PR:

Ultraleap’s recent announcement of their fifth-generation hand tracking platform, known as Gemini, means for the first time, their world leading hand tracking software is now available across multiple platforms, camera systems and third-party hardware. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset and Varjo’s VR-3 and XR-3 headsets have already shipped with Gemini built in.

With this investment round, Ultraleap will continue to bring Gemini to different operating systems and increase their investment in tooling to enable developers to build more applications using the best interface – your hands. Ultraleap will also continue to invest in R&D to drive their machine-learning-based hand tracking even further ahead.

This video shows some examples of how the tech is used:

The pandemic has given the world a new understanding of how pathogens can transfer and catalysed the demand for touchless self-service solutions. Companies like PepsiCo and Lego are already utilising Ultraleap’s technology to remove the barrier of COVID-19 and empower people to return to public settings with confidence. This Series D round will allow Ultraleap to continue to deliver world-class OOH products to its customers at pace, like the company’s award winning TouchFree application.

As the Automotive industry evolves, manufacturers are looking to differentiate on the in-cabin experience even more, as seen with DS Automobiles and Hosiden. The Series D round will enable Ultraleap to iterate faster on their automotive haptic platform and invest in R&D to drive forward the world’s only commercially available mid-air haptics solution.

Carter added: “This raise doesn’t just give us greater resources to scale, but our investors provide us insights and access to our targets markets as well. The timing aligns well with the demand we are seeing from our customers across key verticals.

I have seen this tech demo’d and even had a Leap Motion back in the day (though it ended up in a drawer after a couple of weeks). I am skeptical of the use-case for touchless interaction in high-volume activities like ordering food, buying tickets or other day-to-day activities that are all about speed and ease of use, but see opportunities in places like museums. A person trying to figure out WTF to do in front of an order screen in a QSR would be a bad moment if it slows down transactions.

A BIG part of what the company is going after is automotive – with the idea that safety can be boosted if drivers can keep their eyes on the road without looking and reaching for key controls like heating/cooling and audio.

I have a podcast coming up soon with an Ultraleap product manager, and we get into the business and use-case arguments.

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