Mobile hardware lab Nanoport gets $7 million in seed funding

Held at Moscone Center in San Francisco earlier this month, Mobile World Congress Americas was a pretty uninspiring show, but a few interesting startups stood out among the rows and rows of mobile companies. Nanoport was among the more interesting exhibits on the floor, offering up an array of different smartphone technologies aimed at rethinking the way we interact with our devices.

The event was a sort of public debut for the Silicon Valley-based R&D lab, a chance to showcase a pair of new technologies. Two weeks later, Nanoport tells TechCrunch that it’s secured $7 million in seed funding led by Horizons Ventures, the Hong Kong VC firm backed by business magnate, Li Ka-shing. Other investors include Brightspark Ventures and Kensington Capital Partners.

Horizons has been backing the company since its earliest stealth days, as it’s grown into an independent lab aimed at developing forward thinking smartphone tech in a way that’s agnostic of manufacturers.

“It’s about advancing the mobile platform,” CEO and founder Tim Szeto tells TechCrunch. “Today, it’s very largely a one to one solitary experience. It evolved from the PC era, but we think, moving forward, it’s going to be a much more collaborative experience. It’s beyond your smartphone that involves other devices nearby in a much more seamless way.”

The technologies on display at MWCA are, if revolutionary, certainly compelling. There’s the Nanoport “tablet,” which uses magnetic adapters to daisy chain multiple handsets together for a larger image. The company calls it the “world’s first folding 10-inch tablet” — more correctly, it’s something to do with the device you’ve got lying around that you don’t want to sell or recycle for whatever reason. There aren’t too many instances when watching something on three connected phones beats a tablet, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The other technology, TacHammer, is a haptics system for devices like smartphones and game controllers that allows for distinct and highly controllable feedback. The demo at MWC involved a game pad with distinct vibrations assigned to each button. Implemented in a smartphone, it could mean a more diverse control scheme for a buttonless device.

According to Szeto, this early stage funding will go toward expanding the company’s research facilities. “It’s to further our lab and accelerate commercial development,” he explains. “We’re doubling the size of the lab we have now to 12,000 square feet and opening up a new lab [this] week. It’s got an electronics prototyping lab, a software development lab and a mechanical prototyping lab.”