Leap Motion gesture-control module takes on Microsoft Kinect for Windows

Summary:A new rival has just launched a gesture-control device that may not be as powerful as Kinect for Windows, but is definitely cheaper.

Microsoft may have a serious competitor on its hands when it comes to bringing motion controls to desktop and laptop computers. A new rival has just launched a gesture-control device that may not be as powerful as Kinect for Windows, but is definitely cheaper.

Dubbed the Leap, Leap Motion's module is smartphone sized and connects to a USB port on your PC or Mac (no Linux support yet, but is apparently on the drawing board). After installing the Leap software, you merely wave your hand to calibrate the device, and then you can use the Leap with your hand and finger movements to control your computer.

Leap Motion claims its module is "200 times more accurate than anything else on the market" and says that the Leap "isn’t a game system that roughly maps your hand movements" -- a not-so-subtle swipe at Kinect. An even more direct shot across the bow is the Leap's price -- you can pre-order the device for $69.99, or substantially less than the $249 that Microsoft is currently charging for Kinect for Windows (though that comes with development software).

The good news for Microsoft is that the Leap isn't due until the end of the year, or possibly the beginning of 2013. It will require that developers jump on board with the technology to maximize its possibilities, something Microsoft is able to earn fairly effortlessly thanks to its dominant position in the industry. (Leap Motion says it is partnering with "many of the world’s largest companies," though none has been specified yet.) Kinect can go beyond hand and finger gestures to perform skeletal tracking to determine, for example, if the user is sitting or standing.

Nonetheless, the Leap presents an intriguing alternative to Kinect for those with a tighter budget and no need for full-body controls. Would you be interested in the Leap for controlling your computer via gestures or prefer the Kinect? Let us know in the Comments section below.

[See more images of the Leap in our gallery.]

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware


Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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