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

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.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Hardware

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

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  • This sounds really interesting.

    I have to wonder what it requires in terms of system resources.
    • System resources - where is gesture recognition occuring?

      Yes, I too was wondering what it requires in terms of system resources - is the LEAP merely providing the point cloud data and leaving interpretation up to system resources, or is LEAP also interpreting the data?
    • nt

      lets hope ms releases that doppler effect gesture technology
      other *
  • Queue MS lawyers in 3,2,1...

    • Being that MS did not invent ANY of the technology here...

      one wonders what you have to back up this statement.
      MS did NOT invent motion tracking. They did NOT invent range detection. they did NOT develop the hardware technology.
      They simply packaged it together in the kinect, and wrote APIs. While MS CAN sue if someone steals the algorithms used behind the APIs, then can not sue simply because someone comes out with a motion tracking device.
      Just like Apple can not sue (and has not) if someone creates a device with MultiTouch, but can if someone tried to appropriate the specific algorithms Apple uses to convert the capacitive touch sensor data to user intent.
  • Kinect

    Kinect's advantage is Microsoft's ability to leverage developers.
    • By "leverage developers", do you mean...

      Threaten developers? Microsoft is about the best at Threatening developers. It's one of their oldest tricks.Rather than compete on merit, Microsoft strong-arms the OEMs to harm the competition. This not an opinion, or a fantasy, but historical fact.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Vote it down all you want

        It won't make JJF's statement any less true. The record is replete with accounts of MS doing just that.
    • Don't need MS if the tech accuracy and reliability is as good...

      ...as the demo video implies. If the LEAP is that good, they might consider partnering with someone like Logitech to proliferate driver/API into the wide array of applications. It looks like the LEAP makes accurate, low-cost, touch-like gesturing easily available and scalable to just about any fixed display technology - applications which would have been impractical or cost-prohibitive with touch-panel technology.
  • Required field

    Looks good in theory, but how will it perform in practice?
  • Something about this doesn't make sense

    I don't get it. Why tell everyone in the world what you have up your sleeve when you don't even plan to make this year's holiday season? It's easy to go around to the EA's etc., with early prototypes and non-disclosure agreements without giving the Chinese knockoff houses a bullseye to hit.
    Robert Hahn
    • Makes perfect sense

      The Chinese have had this target for years, ever since the release of the kinect.
      Announcing it now both creates buzz and stokes demand, but also squelches interest in the significantly greater cost Kinect for desktop among those who have a casual interest in the device.
      Also, the Chinese (or anyone else for that matter) don't just have to knock off the hardware, they need to figure out the algorithms, the software control platform, and recreate the APIs, without which the hardware is useless.
      Besides which, you seem to be assuming that the technology involved will be easy to copy. From all that is available, this appears not to be the case. The Chinese have had years to copy the Kinect, which IS easy to copy (it is just a webcam and a range finder in hardware) but have not really done so. This device is FAR less pedestrian. So it seems doubtful the knock offs will be flying out of the east any time soon.
  • The technology looks fantastic

    See the following video:


    The technology looks remarkable, and has much more fidelity and responsiveness than the Kinect. The problem is, it appears the user has to be close to the sensor for it to work well. The Kinect on the other hand, allows you to be across the room and is able to track you as you move around. This kind of technology (motion sensor) really makes sense in most applications, when you are 10 feet away from the screen - not when you are close up to it.

    The Leap motion sensor specifically, makes sense when you are playing video games in one spot, on a PC or game console, and the system is merely tracking your hands. Outside of this scenario, its use seems limited. I believe most people will prefer to interact with their PCs using traditional methods and touch - because these methods are less tiresome. Needless to say, if MS could bring the Leap Motion's level of tracking fidelity to Kinect, Kinect would become a must have system in many, many scenarios.
    P. Douglas
  • One of the biggest things the Kinect has going for it...

    ...is oddly the Microsoft name. Regardless of anything else, Microsoft's not going to fail any time soon. If you're choosing whether to develop for the Leap or the Kinect, the Kinect is much less of a gamble in the long run. Who knows, maybe the Leap will take off gloriously, but until it does, developers will be hesitant.
    • Though it depends also on the availability of the APIs

      and how easy it is to code for (and modify existing code for) relative to the Kinect.
    • One of the biggest things the Kinect has going for it...

      ... is the unthinking proliferation of "scary thoughts". The most amazing thing about facebook, the iPhone, etc. is that anyone gave them a chance. Then, of course, disaster struck again and competitors were discouraged (not enough apps, the 'status quo' is too entrenched... BULL!!

      The tech is downright impressive and NEEDS to be supported. Maybe suggestions such as a cross-compiler for the application layer, deals with manufacturers, building-in options, etc. would support new innovations... who knows.

      Inherent uncertainty is as obvious and expect-able as the naysayers that repeat it... and repeat it... and repeat it. Encouragement, however, is as fleeting as creativity and invention.
  • Alternative Accessibility tool?

    For someone with limited physical movement this might be another nice option. I wonder how fine the movement can be to control the computer (just head movement would be good.)
  • I would much rather have a touchscreen monitor

    Waving your arms around in the air seems like it would be tiring.
    I would much rather have a touchscreen monitor angled at 30 - 40 degrees where you can make more precise movements.
    When you watch the video, it looks like the Leap is pretty useless for writing. It didn't look like there was a way to tell it that you were done writing. "Hello" ended up with a continuous tail.
  • Media Center Integration

    Media Center integration with either option presents the ultimate remote control for couch potato's in general.
    • +1

      Sign me up for MCE integration as well!