We have covered Bristol-based Ultrahaptics before, in 2013 (Display Monitor Vol 20 No 23). The company has just completed a Series A funding round, which raised £10.1 million ($14.6 million), and says that its technology will be rolled out in products starting this year.
‘Haptics’, in the CE space, commonly refers to touch feedback that a user receives when interacting with a screen. Ultrahaptics, however, claims to be able to deliver that response without touching a display, using ultrasound. It is a technology that seems particularly well-suited for VR.
Co-founder Tom Carter believes that most of the challenges with VR, such as bulky headsets and lag between having physical movement reflected virtually, have now been solved. However, touch is the final hurdle.
“Players [using the Microsoft Kinect] make massive gestures because they don’t know where the buttons are in space”, Carter told Ready Business Britain. “The same was true when Apple released the iPhone. People couldn’t type on the touchscreen without looking at it because there was no feeling of touching the keys. It’s why people continued to use BlackBerrys for emails”.
Carter and his former professor at Bristol University, Sriram Subramanian, established the company, which now has 18 employees. He says that Ultrahaptics’ technology could be used create the touch and texture of a virtual object.
Ultrahaptics doesn’t plan to create its own products. Instead, the technology will be rolled out by partner companies. The first is expected in the second half of 2016, and all partners are “household names”. Carter said, “Until pretty recently, the smallest company on our programme had a market cap of $8bn, so there’s nobody you won’t have heard of”.