Leap Motion, which made hand-tracking systems for virtual and augmented reality headsets, is reportedly being acquired by haptics company UltraHaptics. The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier today, saying that the San Francisco-based Leap Motion had agreed to sell for around $30 million.
That’s a fraction of Leap Motion’s $306 million valuation at the peak of its hype in 2013. But it’s similar to a figure that Apple supposedly discussed during a never-completed acquisition last year. The Journal reports that UltraHaptics will get Leap Motion’s patents and hire most of its staff, with the exception of CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald, who will reportedly leave the company.
UltraHaptics isn’t a big name like Apple, but it’s a fairly obvious fit for Leap Motion. The company uses ultrasounds to create the illusion of touch in midair, and Leap Motion’s hand controls can complement that to create a controller-free interface with tactile feedback. UltraHaptics already uses Leap Motion technology.
Leap Motion started by building a much-anticipated consumer gesture controller. The device never caught on as a PC peripheral, but it arrived just in time to ride a wave of interest in virtual and augmented reality, offering an early interface system before the launch of ubiquitous handheld motion trackers. While Leap Motion began licensing its hardware and software for VR headsets, the company struggled to find a niche, and two potential deals with Apple reportedly fell through. Last year, it showed off a design for a low-cost augmented reality headset known as Project North Star.
UltraHaptics is focused on partnering with other companies to add hands-free haptic controls to things like car dashboard controls, information kiosks, smart home devices, and VR systems.