Meta Acquires Berlin-Based Haptics Startup Lofelt
Meta Platforms has acquired the Berlin-based haptic technology startup Lofelt in a bid to bolster its VR ambitions. The acquisition comes barely a month after the company received an FTC injunction over its acquisition of Within. FTC had sought to block the Within Unlimited acquisition over antitrust issues, arguing that the move is anti-competitive as Meta is seeking to dominate the virtual reality market.
Still, Meta has gone to acquire another VR-focused company, Berlin-based Lofelt. The Lofelt acquisition was completed several weeks ago but it has only been made public this week, according to Wall Street Journal, which got the information from Meta, following some inquiries.
Haptics technology, which replicates the sensation of touch in virtual reality, is a key building block of the metaverse. Virtual experiences will be more complete if they can convincingly replicate our real-life sensations such as the sense of touch.
The Berlin-based haptics startup was founded in 2014 and has launched a series of products over the past decade. It is best known for a wristband known as Basslet, its first product launch. The wristband was advertised as a “wearable subwoofer” that provided haptic effects to match the music someone was listening to.
Lofelt also developed Lofelt Studio, a software that enables developers to build granular effects for smartphone apps and game controllers. Lofelt’s tech was also used in Razer’s Nari Ultimate gaming headphones where it also served a haptic function, converting tracks into haptic effects.
In 2017, Lofelt raised $5.4 million in Series A funding. According to Wall Street Journal, the haptic startup has raised $10 million since its founding and employs 25 people.
In June this year, the Berlin-based company announced on its website that it was phasing out its current products and starting “on a new adventure.”
The Wall Street Journal unearthed evidence of the acquisition by Meta Platforms and the social media/metaverse company confirmed the acquisition when asked. According to a Meta spokeswoman quoted in the article, Lofelt’s staff have now joined Meta. There are no details yet on the value of the acquisition.
Meta told Wall Street Journal that Loftelt’s technology will be used in “mapping the illusion of touch in virtual reality” thus clarifying why Meta Platforms purchased the startup and the specific uses its technology will be put into.
Meta Aiming for Better Haptics for its XR Hardware
Meta is specifically expected to use the startup’s haptic technology to develop hardware and software for virtual reality controllers, haptic gloves, EMG, and wristbands.
Meta’s upcoming Quest Pro headset, set to launch in October, has controllers with integrated high-end haptic hardware according to various reports.
Meta unveiled a prototype of its EMG wearable in March 2021 and the device is designed to deliver haptic effects for both virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
Meta also has its VR haptic gloves, developed in-house, although these are a long way from being market-ready. Given that Meta will be building advanced hardware for all its future XR hardware releases, it is expected that Lofelt’s haptic technology expertise will flow into future products.
Given FTC’s last injunction against Meta, it will be interesting to see how the trade commission will react to the latest acquisition. It is possible that the Lofelt acquisition could be too small to warrant FTC’s attention.