Ultraleap: In touching distance

December 09, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Ultraleap: In touching distance
Steve Cliffe, CEO of Ultraleap, talks to Nick Flaherty about the first year since the merger of Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion and how they are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic

A year ago, Bristol startup Ultrahaptics acquired Leap Motion, a pioneer in camera sensing technology. In the time since then, the acquisition has come into its own with the sensing technology providing a key touchless technology in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Being the touchless company in a world that needs to be touchless is a great place to be,” said CEO Steve Cliffe (above left, with co-founder and CTO Tom Carter). The hand tracking technology from Leap Motion in San Francisco was key. “Acquisitions are always challenging, there’s different cultures, bosses who are no longer bosses and we’ve got through all of that.”

“The employees of Leap Motion had control and didn’t want to be acquired by a large company, they wanted to merge with a company like ours to make the technology ubiquitous so that’s what this was about. It made a lot of sense for us and for the shareholders that were left,” he said. “They were an incredible engineering team so we’ve brought commercial experience to it and focused on products we can commercialise. We are now delivering products and signed an agreement with Qualcomm.”

“We’ve had a few bumps along the way but its gone incredibly well. We acquired the team of 12 in San Francisco, which is now up to 1 5 in R&D and 21 in platforms so there’s a total of 38 and the vast majority have been in Bristol and some of the machine learning R&D.”

“We haven’t had a problem recruiting. We’ve got everybody we needed. Since lockdown we’ve hired 25 people in machine learning C++, all in Bristol with 6 or 7 scattered around Europe and the UK but the rest are in Bristol, all of them are waiting to come here.”

Social factors

The pandemic lockdowns have presented challenges for the growing company. “We built the office around the kitchen and when we extended we doubled the


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