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Facebook’s Oculus Buys Gesture Control Firm Pebbles

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Oculus is adding gesture control expertise to its team with the acquisition of Israeli firm Pebbles Interfaces.

In the merry-go-round of tech buyouts, Oculus VR has bought Pebbles Interfaces, its sixth acquisition in the 16 months since its own $2 billion takeover by Facebook. Neither company has disclosed a fee, but it is reported to be about $60 million, according to the WSJ.

"We're excited to announce that we've entered into an agreement to acquire Pebbles Interfaces — one of the leading teams in depth sensing technology and computer vision," Oculus VR said in a blog post on July 16.

This is definitely an acqui-hire move as the Pebbles Interfaces employees will join the hardware engineering and computer vision teams at Oculus "to help advance virtual reality, tracking, and human-computer interactions."

The company is based in Kfar-Saba, 14 miles outside Tel Aviv, and employs 50 people.

For five years, Pebbles Interface has been building gesture-control technology and recently integrated its software into the Oculus VR headset.

Unlike many competitors, Pebbles Interfaces technology allows users to see their own arms and hands, with no latency as they move in the virtual reality display, as shown in the video below.

"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," said Nadav Grossinger, CTO of Pebbles Interfaces. "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."

Founded in 2010, Pebbles Interfaces raised $11.5 million in two funding rounds from companies like leading Chinese mobile manufacturer Xiaomi, Giza Venture Capital, SanDisk Corporation and others. News of the takeover was first reported by Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist before being confirmed by both Oculus and Pebbles Interfaces.

Incredibly, it's Oculus VR's sixth purchase since the Facebook takeover in March 2014. The first, in June 2014, was Carbon Design Group, which helped design the Xbox 360 controller, followed two weeks later by game-networking engine RakNet. In December, Oculus bought Nimble VR and 13th Lab, both virtual reality companies. Lastly, in May, the company absorbed computer vision firm Surreal Vision.



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