Emerging Tech

Leap Aims to Put a Whole New World in Your Hands

Leap Motion released its new Leap motion control system for pre-order on Monday, with shipment promised in early 2013. The US$69.99 Leap is 200 times more sensitive than any similar existing technology and allows for a variety of natural and intuitive 3D motion controls.

Leap Motion is shipping out developer kits as well, and the technology could soon be incorporated in a variety of gaming, graphic design, robotics and other software and computing systems. The company will work closely with the first 100 developers, and the device will ship with its own app store.

“The first time I saw it I was blown away,” Andy Miller, a general partner with Leap Motion investor Highland Capital Partners, told TechNewsWorld. “We had a demo in the office, and we just looked at each other and knew it was something we had to get involved in. It’s the way people will interact with their devices in the future.”

The system is a joy to use, said Bill Warner, founder of CoFlow Investing, which has also invested in Leap Motion.

“What Leap Motion does is say, ‘You have two hands, and we’re going to watch both of your hands in real time with tremendous accuracy,'” Warner told TechNewsWorld. “It’s amazing and extremely easy. It feels like what using your hands feels like.”

Dreams of Control

Capturing and translating fully natural motion has long been a goal of developers, with Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect systems being the closest technologies yet to achieve that dream. Leap Motion argues that the Leap, thanks to years of mathematical development by the company’s CTO, David Holz, will be a step closer to making it a reality, particularly when it comes to subtle movements in close proximity to a computer.

“Kinect is meant for body motion at a distance, and not with the kind of accuracy as the Leap,” explained Warner. “Kinect is meant to operate in a much bigger space — the space that your body would take up. This is meant to be an interface to your screen.”

The system bridges the gap between what’s possible in the real world and what’s possible in the digital realm, said Michael Buckwald, Leap Motion’s CEO.

“It was this gap between what’s easy in the real world but very complicated to do digitally, like molding a piece of clay or creating a 3D model, that inspired us to create the Leap and fundamentally change how people work with their computers,” said Buckwald.

“In addition to the Leap for computers, our core software is versatile enough to be embedded in a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, cars and refrigerators. One day 3D motion control will be in just about every device we interact with, and thanks to the Leap, that day is coming sooner than anyone expected.”

The Leap is accurate to one one-hundredth of a millimeter within a 4 cubic foot space. It senses the movements of a user’s 10 fingers and tracks objects like pointers and pens, allowing users to navigate operating systems and Web pages, do virtual drawing, sign documents by writing in the air, create 3D models of buildings and cars, and play complex 3D video games. It might also have future development possibilities in robotics, art, computer-aided design, medical imaging and simulation training.

The Leap plugs into a computer, laptop or mobile device via a USB port and features instant calibration that gets it up and running quickly. It also allows users to customize its gestures and fine-tune its sensitivity settings in order to make the device their own. Multiple Leaps can be networked together, creating an interactive, collaborative space.

Peering Into the Future

If Leap works like Leap Motion says it does, it could have a major impact on the gaming industry, said Kyle Orland, senior gaming editor at Ars Technica.

“The system seems to really deliver a level of resolution that can easily pick out individual fingers and very fine, sub-millimeter level movements, leading to much more precise control,” Orland told TechNewsWorld. “[And it’s] a chewing gum package-sized box that can easily be integrated into a desk or laptop. If the company can really deliver this at $70, it’ll represent quite a leap in motion-control technology.”

“This kind of technology is almost too amazing to believe,” said J.D. Rucker, editor of Techi.com, who has placed his order and is excited to try the new system.

“This is absolutely stunning,” Rucker told TechNewsWorld. “We’ve had the technology for 3D interfaces for a while, but the biggest challenge has been to take a massive amount of data and transform it quickly into a form that can be used by today’s generation of devices. I’m anxious to see how it works.”

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