Ultrahaptics: Innovative VR company of the year

Founded in 2013 based on technology developed at the University of Bristol, Ultrahaptics uses ultrasound to create three-dimensional shapes and textures that can be felt with your bare hands, but not seen. Its ground-breaking mid-air haptics technology was recognised in the 2018 Virtual Reality Awards, when the firm was named ‘Innovative VR company of the year’ – an award sponsored by Moore Stephens.

“I was thrilled, but surprised, because the competition was seriously impressive,” says Heather Macdonald Tait, Ultrahaptics’ Director of Marketing Communications.

Ultrahaptics’ growth has been supported by seed funding, a European Commission grant and a couple of successive funding rounds. It now employs around 100 people, 65% being engineers, and has international offices in Munich and Palo Alto.

The company has reached an exciting stage. “We are starting to get more deployment in the public domain,” Macdonald Tait says. “There is now a casino gaming machine with our technology that has been deployed worldwide. We are currently working with a few different suppliers on location-based entertainment – essentially theme parks and immersive experiences. We are also working with multiple large customers on automotive controls.”

There are numerous potential uses for the technology. “Anywhere that you interface with a digital world, we can add mid-air haptics,” Macdonald Tait says. “That could be interfacing with the stereo or entertainment system in a vehicle, or using an elevator button in a hospital where you don’t want to physically touch something. We are on a mission to make interfaces healthier and safer to use, as well as more fun and immersive. We do have aspirations to get into people’s homes and day-to-day life – but that’s a little further down the line.”   

Macdonald Tait believes the future success of the VR industry will be helped by effective collaboration. “We are a haptics company,” she says. “We need to make sure there are good visuals, that headsets are at the right price-point, and that content is available. So we need collaboration in the VR sector, but that does seem to be happening now. We are seeing the beginning of mass adoption – not just in gaming, but initiatives that are enterprise or retail led.”

As for Ultrahaptics? “We want to be a UK tech success story,” Macdonald Tait says. “We want to change the way that we interface with our devices for ever. The real world is 3D – so we want to make sure our digital world is 3D too.”

Eyad Hamouieh, Innovation & Technology partner and judge at the VR Awards 2018, adds: “Each company shortlisted within the ‘Innovative VR Company of the Year’ category made a compelling case for the award. What stood out for me was Ultrahaptics commitment, not just to developing their immersive technology, but their drive to commercialise its use across multiple industries – from gaming to immersive advertising.

“We’re proud to be champions of innovative, home-grown technology companies – so we congratulate the team at Ultrahaptics for their award win.”

To discuss the VR Awards, or the ways in which our Innovation and Technology group can support your business to innovate and grow, please contact Eyad Hamouieh.
 

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