VR Pioneer Leap Motion Acquired By UK’s Ultrahaptics for $30 Million
Virtual reality startup Leap Motion, a pioneer in cutting-edge virtual reality hand-tracking controls, and which also manufactures DIY AR gear has agreed to sell to the UK-based VR solutions company Ultrahaptics for $30 million.
— Leap Motion (@LeapMotion) May 30, 2019
Leap Motion has reportedly not generated much revenues and its valuation has since shrunk from a peak of $300 million to the current selling price of $30 million. The company has been entertaining various buyout offers and was almost acquired by Apple. According to a report on WSJ, Ultrahaptics will now be acquiring the company for the lower valuation of $30 million.
The two companies have in the past collaborated on a number of projects for close to six years according to the Leap Motion co-founder and CTO David Holz. Rather than being direct competitors, the two VR companies in fact have complementary innovations. The Leap Motion technology was already deployed in the Ultrahaptics’ products even before the acquisition.
Ultrahaptics specializes in building virtual control solutions that leverage ultrasonic waves to generate mid-air tactile sensations on hands. This technology allows gesture control users to feel virtual objects without even holding a Touch controller or wearing virtual reality gloves.
The Ultrahaptics technology allows users to have a large spectrum of experiences ranging from the mid-air gesture sensing to sensations as well as near-physical interactions such as a click when a virtual reality or augmented reality button is pressed; some friction sensation when a cube is turned or a sensation of texture when a user runs their fingers on a surface.
Leap Motion, a software and hardware company founded in 2010, has been developing cutting-edge 3D motion-control technology for VR and other platforms. The Leap Motion products enable users to interact with virtual environments through the use of hand gestures that have been captured in real-time without the requirement of additional traditional handheld controllers.
The company rode the virtual reality wave of the early 2010s but it soon ran out of the steam as the bubble started bursting around late 2016 and into 2017.
However, even as the initial buzz around virtual reality started to wane, the company was still raking in prospects. In July 2017, it raised $50 million in venture capital fundraising which was aimed at helping it take its product to the market. Some of Leap Motion’s products did see the light of the day but they still struggled to get an audience. With virtual reality still pretty much in its infancy, technologies such as hand gesturing are still seen as something of an overkill rather than an indispensable innovation for present immersive technologies.
In spite of the low traction, Leap Motion’s products have received rave reviews in the industry. They are appreciated for their elegance as well as accuracy. Apple has tried to acquire the company twice. The second Apple attempt at acquisition had fallen through due to disagreement over valuation. Apple had reportedly offered a value ranging from $30 million to $50 million with the lower valuation being just 10% of the company’s $306 million valuation at the time.
With the acquisition, Ultrahaptics will also acquire Leap Motion’s patents and staff including the company’s co-founder and CTO David Holz. However, the CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald won’t be making a transition to the company. It is also not clear whether the development of Leap Motion’s augmented reality helmet design North Star will also be continued following the acquisition.
What Does the Acquisition Mean for Ultrahaptics
The two companies have always complemented one another and even collaborated on a number of projects so the acquisition will create a powerful synergy. Ultrahaptics will acquire the tracking and haptic technologies that will help it further develop the sense of touch in some of its products. The combination of Leap Motion and Ultrahaptics may lead to the development of more ambient immersive effects that could be incorporated into various educational and technological projects. Ultrahaptics hopes to “max out” the potential of merging these two technologies.