Company Logo Thursday, June 17, 2004

Handshake VR gets $3 million for its virtual touch technology

The Record, Ron DeRuyter

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Handshake VR Inc. has secured $3 million in venture capital financing to accelerate the commercial deployment of its virtual touch technology.

Tech Capital Partners, BDC Venture Capital and Trellis Capital Corp. are providing the money in exchange for an ownership stake in the three-year-old Kitchener company.

Handshake, formerly known as Handshake Interactive, develops software that simulates the sense of touch in virtual environments.

The applications are wide-ranging and cross a number of industries including automotive, medical, military, industrial and consumer products.

Examples of potential applications include telesurgery, in which a surgeon in one city could operate on a patient at another location, touch-screen dashboards in cars, and detection and removal of bombs or landmines.

Handshake's time-delay compensation software is at the heart of the technology. It overcomes the natural time lag that occurs when data moves across networks, thereby allowing virtual touching to happen in real time.

The sky's the limit in terms of possible end uses of the technology, said Dieter Hensler, the firm's president and chief executive officer.

Touch is the fourth dimension of computer user interfaces, joining data, voice and visualization, he said.

"The exciting thing about it is we are talking about something we all know. As we are speaking, you touch your pen, you feel it. You couldn't write without feeling it. It is a most obvious thing, yet it really hasn't been introduced in technology yet."

Handshake, founded by University of Waterloo electrical and computer engineering professor David Wang, will use the money for marketing, and to develop partnerships with distributors, research organizations and companies that are interested in integrating the technology into their products.

Hensler, a former president of Waterloo Maple (now Maplesoft) who joined Handshake in January, said the company plans to create a "toolbox" that engineers can use to incorporate virtual touch into their designs.

"The toolbox will allow hundreds of thousands of engineers around the world to deal with very complex subject matter in a very easy way," he said.

Handshake already has sold its technology to universities and industry for proof of concept projects.

The company has eight employees.

Hensler said the workforce will grow to 25 over the next few months as the company beefs up its engineering, and sales and marketing teams.

BDC Venture Capital is an arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada. Trellis is a Toronto-based private venture fund.

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