Previously unheard of San Francisco startup company Leap Motion unveiled their blockbuster product yesterday, and it is amazing. They have developed a little black box (about the size of a thumb drive) that is capable of tracking hand gestures within a four cubic foot area. It then uses these hand gestures to control control computer applications.
Motion tracking technology has been around for several years now, and is most notably used in the Microsoft Kinect. Likewise, the concept and use of hand gestures controlling computers is nothing new. Apple, for example, has implemented gesture controls on its laptop track pads and mobile devices such as the iPad. Two things make the Leap stand out, though. For one, Leap Motion claims that the Leap can track movement to 1/100th of a millimeter. This is roughly 2oo times more accurate than any other public technology. Secondly, it is a unique blend of the previously mentioned two technologies, and each of them has proven extremely popular.
Surprisingly, the device is going for a relatively cheap, and definitely affordable, $69.99. This will almost definitely help it become popular among consumers and developers alike.
Leap motion has created an SDK that will allow software developers to create applications, including games and 3D modeling programs, that are compatible with Leap. This would suggest that it doesn’t provide native operating system and software support, but that’s only partly true. Some basic scrolling and clicking has been implemented. However, it still doesn’t provide advanced controls for applications that are even remotely complicated. This limits its possible uses significantly. But let’s not focus on it’s shortcomings; an SDK will certainly allow developers to create some awesome innovative applications that wouldn’t be possible without it.
Although it is demoed on a Mac, it is designed for Windows 7 machines. As I mentioned before, some basic touchscreen style gestures allow for simple navigation. With it’s pinpoint accuracy, it is able to use finger gestures to control software. Yet another useful feature is the ability to recognize objects that aren’t hands or fingers, such as a pencil, and interpret and implement the object gestures accordingly.
Linux, Windows8, and Mac support is said to be in the works, and it will hopefully be released at a point near in the future.
Up to this point, only computer control has been discussed. Leap Motion says that they plan to use their technology in many other kinds of devices, including cell phones, refrigerators, and even cars. Imagine controlling your car stereo or window wipers with the swipe or clench of your hand!
Leap isn’t available just yet, but Leap Motion is taking pre-orders from their website now, and pre-orders are going to be shipped at some point during the winter of 2012. If you are a developer, you can request early acces to the device and its API through their website.