Bristol-founded haptics platform developer Ultrahaptics is set to absorb Leap Motion's patents and employees, succeeding in a transaction that Apple failed to complete twice.

Ultrahaptics, a UK-based mid-air ­­­haptics technology spinout of University of Bristol, is set to merge with US-based virtual reality platform creator Leap Motion in a deal reportedly worth approximately $30m.

The figure was given by the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources close to the transaction, however it is yet to be officially confirmed. The deal with Ultrahaptics follows two failed attempts by technology firm Apple to acquire Leap Motion.

Founded in 2013, Ultrahaptics has built a haptics interface that relies on ultrasound to give the user the impression they can “feel” virtual objects in mid-air.

In addition to interactive media content such as VR, the tactile feedback of Ultrahaptics’ system could support hands-free operation of devices including in-car dashboards, smart home panels and medical interfaces.

The merger will combine the technological resources and market reach of Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion with the goal of developing products that define human-machine interfaces in the 21st century.

Ultrahaptics will own Leap Motion’s patents and retain its employees, though chief executive and co-founder Michael Buckwal declined to remain with the company.

Ultrahaptics’ existing partners include engineering product maker Robert Bosch and audio equipment producer Harman, while Leap Motion has licensed its VR systems to customers in sectors ranging from medical training to entertainment.

Ultrahaptics previously closed a $44.8m round in December 2018 led by private equity firm Mayfair Equity Partners with participation from commercialisation firm IP Group and the latter’s Venture Fund II.

Australian superannuation fund Hostplus also contributed capital, along with electronic products importer Cornes Technology, Woodford Investment and Dolby Family Ventures.

IP Group had already backed Ultrahaptics’ $23m series B round in 2017 together with Cornes, Woodford Investment and Dolby Family Ventures. It also featured in Ultrahaptics’ $15.6m series A led by Woodford Investment two years previously, after co-leading a $940,000 seed round for the company in 2014 with one of its managed funds.