Motorola gets all touchy-feely, invests in French startup Sensitive Object

sensitive-object[France] Touch screens are definitely in at the moment – the iPhone has seen to that – and they don’t look like going away anytime soon. That’s certainly Motorola’s bet. Its venture capital arm, Motorola Ventures, has made an undisclosed investment in Paris startup Sensitive Object, which is described as “a leader in multi-touch platforms and natural user interface[s]”.

The 20-plus strong company has developed technology that enables any surface to be given touch capabilities. It does this by leveraging acoustics to analyse sound waves departing from the point of a touch, offering an alternative to traditional ‘resistive’ touch screens, which require pressure, or ‘capacitive’ screens, which utilise the static electricity omitted by a finger. Sensitive Object’s approach is said to offer better performance and at less cost, which is presumably why Motorola thinks it could help give them the edge.

touchAlthough Sensitive Object’s ReverSys software isn’t restricted to the use in mobile phones alone, it seems likely that the technology will benefit Motorola’s struggling handset division the most. The US company is currently battling to recapture its former glory in mobile, having fallen to a global handset market share of 4.7 percent, and in the lucrative smartphone category is putting all of its eggs in Android’s touch-friendly basket. Sensitive Object’s tech, therefore, seems a good fit. While moving forward, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for handset makers to distinguish one Android-based offering from another – UI tweaks and Software-as-a-Service can only go so far when the underlying OS is the same- so anything that helps Moto standout will be welcome.

Sensitive Object, which has offices in Paris and Singapore, was formed in October 2003 as a spin-off from the French Science National Research Centre (CNRS). In August 2004 it received funding from VC firm Sofinnova Partners.