Some consolidation is afoot in the world of virtual reality. MindMaze, a startup based out of Switzerland that has been building a VR platform to map and respond to brain activity for applications in healthcare and other fields, is making its first acquisition: Gait Up, a developer of motion analytics used in smart watches and other hardware.
Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, MindMaze’s CEO and founder Tej Tadi said in an interview. Gait Up was bootstrapped and generating revenue and had an interesting list of customers and partners, including Logitech, the Swatch group, Hitachi, Philips, Salomon, PIQ, BNP Paribas group, Jaguar Land Rover and Pomoca.
The company’s 10 or so employees will be joining MindMaze as part of the deal, and Gait Up will continue to serve its existing customers for the rest of this year before gradually working to integrate its tech with that of MindMaze’s to expand its platform to bring in more diagnostics and data.
“From the research we began 15 years ago, our vision has been to change the way we measure and make sense of human motion,” said Benoit Mariani, CEO and co-founder of Gait Up in a statement. “Adding our motion tracking technology to MindMaze’s suite of solutions creates exciting new possibilities for industries far beyond our healthcare roots.”
The acquisition comes at a time when MindMaze has seen some interesting developments of its own. Earlier this year, the company received FDA approval in the U.S. so that it can start to sell its technology to healthcare organizations in that country.
It has also completed work on new hardware, a piece of foam that lines a VR headset with sensors to pick up your facial expressions and translate them directly to your avatar on the screen.
And, we have discovered that MindMaze is in the process of raising a new round of funding for its next phase of development. That round will be at least as big as its previous round — MindMaze notably raised $100 million in February 2016 — and possibly more, I understand.
Tadi tells me that he had his eye on Gait Up for a while before making the acquisition: both companies are based out of Lausanne and he had been watching it build its technology gradually and acquire customers before making a move.
Gait Up’s founding followed a route that you see many of the most interesting startups in areas like AI and machine learning take in Switzerland: as an offshoot of academic work. In its case, it was started as a joint venture between the University Hospital of Lausanne and the Swiss Institute of Technology of Lausanne, and has the academic cred to prove it with some 358 articles published in academic journals and with several patents locked down on top of that.
Similar to MindMaze, Gait Up had an ambition to build both a software platform coupled with hardware developments, in its case, in the area of analyzing human movement in very precise increments using inertial sensors, or systems that combine a mix of computers, motion sensors like accelerometers and rotation sensors to calculate movement without the need for external references.
Inertial sensors are often used in ships, cars and other vehicles, and while that points to areas where MindMaze might hope to apply the tech itself, it’s also notable that Gait Up’s marquee product, the Droplet motion sensor, is the smallest inertial sensor ever made, making it a good fit for human movement and plans that MindMaze may have for its own product roadmap in headsets and other wearables and hand-held devices.
“For VR/AR to achieve mainstream adoption, having an immersive user experience powered by mobile devices is essential; we’ve solved one of the most complex aspects of virtual immersion, human emotion, when we launched MASK in early 2017,” observed Tadi. “Now with Gait Up’s unrivaled motion analysis technology, we’ll transport human movement in all its dynamic range to virtual worlds.”