By using clever algorithms and ultrasound to project sensations onto a hand, Ultrahaptics is allowing people to feel and control technology like never before. Essentially, it enables users to feel an area of vibration that simulates tactile sensations, allowing the user to touch and manipulate virtual objects, such as invisible buttons, dials and touch pads. Users can feel tiny bubbles bursting on their fingertips, a stream of liquid passing over their hand, and the outlines of three-dimensional shapes. This is an elegant and simple way to allow people to connect with devices without ever having to touch them. Ultrahaptics can be used anywhere users interact with technology, such as in gaming, appliances, in the car or in multimedia. For instance, it can be used to allow users to control their music, thermostat, television and lighting, all with the wave of a hand, or with the precision of a fingertip in midair. There will be no need to physically engage with the controls, smear a finger on a screen or find the remote again.

How they’re disrupting

Ultrahaptics claims to be the only company in the world creating technology to let people feel and manipulate virtual objects in the air. There are many potential applications—from using an invisible slider to pump up the bass on a home stereo to adjusting the car air conditioning with the twist of a virtual dial.  Essentially, Ultrahaptics is making virtual reality “feel” more real. The technology has already attracted interest from Jaguar Land Rover, Harman and dozens of other companies.

Disruption potential

The haptic technology industry is expected to be worth over $22 billion by 2022. The applications for this technology are incredibly broad. Automotive customers have been quick to engage as they are currently launching cars with gesture recognition and require haptic feedback to make their controls more instinctive and responsive through the introduction of haptic feedback. VR (Virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) both for more obvious gaming applications and broader applications such as enterprise and industrial users (e.g. architectural, training, medical). Further applications include the location based entertainment market such as theme parks. The market opportunity is in the billions of dollars.

Investments and future

Ultrahaptics has received £600,000 in seed funding, £10.1 million round A funding, £17.9 million round B funding, and a €1.49 million European Commission H2020 grant. Investors include IP Group and Woodford Investment Management. The current focus is helping their customers (including big names in the car industry) to bring the first products to market and to create further strategic partnerships with the VR and AR ecosystem.