Facebook's Oculus Buys Israeli Gesture Tech Firm Pebbles Interfaces
Oculus, the virtual-reality firm purchased by Facebook for $2 billion last year, has made an acquisition of its own: a five-year-old Israeli firm that specializes in gesture-control technologies. The purchase of Pebbles Interfaces is reportedly valued at around $60 million.
Based in the city of Kfar Saba, Pebbles Interfaces focuses on developing technology that "extends human behavior, enabling simple and intuitive interaction with any consumer electronic device." That mission matches the goals of Oculus itself, which is working on virtual-reality devices called Rift and Gear VR.
The acquisition is the third in less than a year for the Facebook property. In December, Oculus announced it was making two acquisitions to improve its immersive technology, Nimble VR (formerly 3Gear Systems), and 13th Lab as well as hiring Chris Bregler, a New York University computer science professor focused on motion capture technologies.
Visual Computing the 'Next Major Platform'
In a statement on its Web site, Pebbles Interfaces said it has -- over the course of its brief history -- "seen virtual reality make huge strides, changing the way people interact with one another." Oculus is at the forefront of that shift, according to the company. Joining Oculus, "will help advance our vision building immersive experiences and revolutionizing digital human interaction," the company said.
A post today on the Oculus blog described Pebbles Interfaces as "one of the leading teams in depth-sensing technology and computer vision."
Pebbles Interfaces CTO Nadav Grossinger added, "Through micro-optics and computer vision, we hope to improve the information that can be extracted from optical sensors, which will help take virtual reality to the next level. We've always believed visual computing will be the next major platform in our lifetime, and we're excited to join the Oculus team to achieve that vision for the future."
Touchless Tech Worth $42.6B by 2020
Oculus' Rift is being designed as a headset that lets users experience games, movies and other visual content enhanced by virtual reality. The company is also developing a virtual-reality device called Gear VR designed to integrate with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, S6 or S6 Edge smartphone.
A full consumer version of Gear VR is expected to come out later this year. Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack said during the Game Developer Conference in March that the Gear VR will launch at the same time as Samsung's next major product release.
The market for touchless human-machine-interaction (HMI) technologies is expected to reach $42.6 billion by 2020, according to the market research and consulting firm Touch Display Research.
"From mobile phones to automobiles, from digital signage to home/building automation, from notebook PC to wearable devices, touchless human-machine-interaction is the next big thing," noted analyst Jennifer Colegrove. "Touchless HMI provides the benefit of hygiene/cleanness, safety, power/resource saving, convenience, fun, and coolness."