VCs Move $30M into Leap Motion to Leapfrog Microsoft and Nintendo

In the near future, people will wear head-mounted computers and control them by moving hands through the air. They’ll learn guitar using programs that track the placement of each finger on each string. And in online combat games, they’ll smite an enemy with their fists.

Those are some of the applications that founders of Leap Motion foresee for motion sensing, as precision improves and pricing declines. And as the company prepares to launch its first product in Q1 – a $70 motion-sensing device that works with a computer – VCs are buying into the vision.

San Francisco-based Leap announced today that it has raised $30 million in Series B funding from existing investors. The Founders Fund led the round and named partner Luke Nosek to the board. Other prior investors include Highland Capital PartnersAndreessen Horowitz and SOS Ventures, which also participated in a $2.75 million round the company closed in March.

Michael Buckwald, Leap’s CEO, says his company’s Leap Motion Controller is more accurate than Microsoft’s Kinect and Nintendo’s Wii and can and track small finger movements, allowing developers to create more sophisticated motion-sensing applications. The controller is “200 times more accurate than anything else on the market,” according to the company.

The latest round close comes as Leap prepares to scale up manufacturing of its Leap Motion Controller, recently made available for pre-order. The company also announced a partnership with ASUS, a Taiwanese maker of PCs and tablets, to incorporate the technology into high-end notebooks.

Buckwald says the company “has been inundated with pre-orders.” All told, it has hundreds of thousands of product orders and plans to scale manufacturing capability to meet potentially millions of orders. More partnerships will also soon be announced, he added.

Leap’s funding announcement is one of several in recent quarters for companies developing motion-sensing technology or selling devices that incorporate it. Other VC-backed companies with a motion sensing component include:

FitBit. The maker of a small device to track activity and manage weight has raised $30 million to date, including $12 million in 2011 and 2012. Backers of the San Francisco-based company include Foundry Group, Felicis Ventures, Softtech VC and True Ventures.

Qualtré. The developer of MEMS-based motion-sensor technology for consumer electronics has raised $27 million to date, including $14 million in 2011 and 2012. Backers of the Marlborough, Mass.-based company include Matrix Partners and Pilot House Ventures.

iControl Networks. The broadband home monitoring provider,incorporates motion sensing into some of its services, such as a home healthcare platform that tracks elderly residents’ mobility.  The Redwood City, Calif.-based company has raised $95 million to date, including $51 million in 2011. Backers include Charles River Ventures, Cisco, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Intel Capital.

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