Leap Motion, the pioneer in optical hand-tracking, has been acquired by Ultrahaptics, the enterprise-focused immersive haptics company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ultrahaptics reportedly acquired Leap Motion for approximately $30 million.

The company maintains in a company blog post that the acquisition won’t affect support for the Leap Motion community, and that “new and exciting products” are coming down the bend.

Since its founding in 2011, Leap Motion has garnered over $94 million in outside funding. The latest round, amounting to $50 million, arrived in summer 2017.

Its flagship product, Leap Motion, struggled at first to find purchase in the PC peripheral market, although it decidedly found a home in VR among Oculus Rift DK1 and DK2-clad developers, making it a household name at least in the burgeoning niche. At the time of this writing, a Leap Motion tracker can be purchased for under $80 new.

Image courtesy Leap Motion

It seemed Leap Motion was on a continuous upward trajectory, however it was reported late last year that Apple was actually on the verge of acquiring Leap Motion, but the deal fell through days before it was expected to close.

Undeterred, the company then went on to engineer its open-source AR headset, Project North Star. Leap Motion has since released plans for the headset, although it seems adoption among the dev community has been less than favorable.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ultrahaptics will receive Leap Motion’s patents and hire most of its staff. CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald will reportedly leave the company.

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Leap Motion couches the acquisition as a “strategic deal,” which combines the two companies to create what they call a “vertically integrated technology company that brings us that much closer to fully immersive, rich and physically intuitive virtual interfaces.”

The marriage between the two companies makes a certain amount of sense, as Ultrahaptics produces enterprise-level haptic tech that’s based on ultrasonic emitters, which can serve up variable tactile sensations to a user in mid-air. Vertically integrating Leap Motion’s optical hand-tracking tech could push Ultrahaptics yet further down its path to becoming a bigger name in its target markets, including automotive, digital signage and location-based entertainment.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • JesuSaveSouls

    Leap is a excellent product and work for some mainstream vr but they have many of their own vr experiences too.It’s a steal at 30 mill.Jesus Christ died for you too.He is alive!

    • Ellie 187

      I concur, I’m still happy with the purchase .. haven’t used it in awhile, but hopefully its support in bigscreen beta is still there.. useful to have your hands in VR without having to use my vive wands, so I can let them charge for gaming after bigscreen

  • Xron

    Hope they will succeed…

  • eckehard

    What do you think guys – -just now buy a leap motion modul for 90 bucks – before they set the prices higher – as I read leap motion works with nearly all headsets -right ??

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      I don’t know where you’ve read that the Leap Motion works with nearly all headsets. It works with headsets the same way a mouse or a HOTAS works: you need drivers, currently only available for Windows, and active software support by the VR app you are using. If the game doesn’t support a mouse or a gamepad or Leap Motion, the peripheral device is pretty much useless in VR. And while there are a number of VR games that support a mouse or a HOTAS, there are only a few demos supporting Leap Motion. What is shown in the gallery on their site is pretty much it.

      Don’t get me wrong: the technology is very interesting. I have a Leap Motion, and I have used it to demonstrate VR on the Oculus DK1 and DK2. And it is very cool to manipulate objects with your fingers, at least since the Orion update. But it was never reliably, gesture detection is still pretty basic/bad. I was particularly interested in using it for mobile VR, but they only had a closed alpha SDK around 2014 that was never made public, the Orion beta VR SDK for Windows hasn’t seen much development since 2016 and their new VR/AR sensors have been “coming soon” for years. None of the partnership with VR HMD builders seem to have gone anywhere, so it is pretty much dead by now.

      The only good reason to buy a Leap Motion today is if you are a) a VR developer using Windows with b) an interest in mobile VR that c) knows you can only use the Leap Motion to test interaction methods, as d) the company has announced that it will focus on mobile AR/VR devices which integrate the technology, but will not be compatible to the Leap Motion they have been selling unchanged since 2013.

      • eckehard

        So many thanks for your declarations – also I wait for better versions of Magic Leap – may be a cheaper Hololens and maybe for an future Valve – have a good time -one more thx

      • eckehard

        So many thanks for your declarations – also I wait for better versions of Magic Leap – may be a cheaper Hololens and maybe for an future Valve – have a good time -one more thx

      • Ellie 187

        I have a leap motion.. I loved its implementation in Bigscreen Beta

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    30M seems like bargain compared to Magic Leap’s 2.3BLN. In fact for that money you could invest in (or buy out) more than 70 companies with similar evaluation in all sorts of fields – Haptics, Eye Tracking, Motion Controllers etc Oh well.. :)

  • Puddles

    full tracking + ultrasonic haptics, what a future it’s going to be…

    • Bob

      It’s not enough unfortunately for virtual reality. You still have to take into account physical force feedback which doesn’t exist with this technology.

  • Nads

    Im waiting to see how and if this can be integrated into Valve Index, and if so how it would be used. As i don’t need hand tracking anymore cause of knuckle controllers, i need something to track my feet instead now.

    • There are vive trackers for that

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Well, the cut-out in the index is exactly the size and shape of the leap motion…

      • Jacob Carlson

        It’s really not the same dimensions, but the possibility of a Leap Motion designed to fit in there exists.

  • It has been so sad to see the falling parable of Leap Motion. It was a very interesting startup, IMHO. I hope that the talented people there will continue doing their job even now that the company has been acquired. And I hope that they will start selling the v2 accessory…

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  • This sounds all bad for current Leap Motion users, for the following reasons:

    1. Enterprise vs Comsumer. Ultrahaptics is an Enterprise company, so they will not be interested in end users, ie pretty much every developer playing around with it right now. I’ve rarely seen any “Enterprise” company downgrade themselves into the maelstrom of the Consumer market, which is fickle, cheap, demanding, and easily angered. Products sell intermittently, with both big payoffs as well as BIG losses. Enterprise has contracts and planned obligations. The risk is FAR less. If they can stay in “Enterprise”, they stay there FOREVER. It’s easy money, less headaches.

    2. No such thing as “Autonomy” in mergers. In 20+ years of tracking tech companies, no matter what’s said during the merger, I’ve never seen an acquired company retain *ANY* autonomy. Heck, just look at Oculus. What did that take? 2 years before half of the brain-trust had left the company, either forced or pressured? The Facebook’s marketing department forced them to downgrade the next gen to a slightly revamped WMR system. The real Rift-2 might never happen.

    3. Brain-trust Head-Butting. Ultrahaptics deals with sound tracking, so it’s unlikely they understand much about the optical tracking. Unless they fire all of their existing engineers and put the Leap Motion people in charge, heads will get butted and good engineers from Leap will get let go.

    4. Corporate dynamics. The buying company always has authority over the receiving company. This is WHY, when head butting between engineers happens, the “acquired” people will get canned. And with such radically different opinions on how to track the hands (optical vs sonic), the Leap people will lose. It’s not a matter of it those engineers will leave, but WHEN. You have a company of outdated sonic-tracking engineers being fused with a company full of cutting-edge optical tracking geniuses. It’s not a matter of it those engineers will leave, but WHEN. Once the brains are gone, it’s all just patents and lawyers.

    5. Patent trolls. Since Microsoft and Valve are talking about optical hand tracking, this acquisition will be used as a weapon to slow down all of their work, drag them into court, and shake them down for money. So this merger not only hurts Leap, it hurts *ALL* optical hand tracking in the future.

    6. Leap Motion’s leadership seems to have been working on selling off their company for awhile now. They’ve been very lax about making new products, We’ve only heard about research projects from them for ages now. They might have brilliant engineers, but their leaders have been trying to throw them under the bus for awhile now. The leadership never had the backbone to make Project North Star a reality. Their existing leaders are done with new products. There’s no reason to think the new ones will want to push forward. It’s all down to the patent trolls now.

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