Tencent Deepens Its AR Investment Portfolio with $50 Million in Funding for Ultraleap « Next Reality

Over the past decade, China tech giant Tencent has invested in several companies with varying roles in the augmented reality industry.

Its latest bet backs a startup with some short-term impact related to the COVID-19 pandemic but more future-focused growth potential in the coming AR smartglasses era.

According to a Sky News report, Image Frame Investment, Tencent’s venture capital arm, will invest approximately $50 million into UK-based Ultraleap as part of the company’s on-going Series D round of funding at a valuation of nearly $240 million.

Image by Ultraleap/YouTube

Emerging from Ultrahaptic’s acquisition of Leap Motion, Ultraleap provides sensors and software for gesture recognition and touch-free haptic feedback. The company’s technology has found demand during the pandemic, where interfaces that work without touching help prevent spreading the novel coronavirus. Most recently, Ultraleap has established a partnership to bundle its TouchFree system with computers from Simply NUC.

“We’ve worked hard to get the TouchFree application to market to meet the increasing demand for touchless interaction,” Saurabh Gupta, director of OOH product at Ultraleap, in a statement.

The same technology will likely play a role in AR headsets and smartglasses, where hand gestures are a prevalent form of user input. Ultraleap has already integrated its Gemini software into the Varjo XR-3 headset and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 reference design.