Leap Motion controller could bridge the chasm between iPad and iMac

Leap Motion controller could bridge the chasm between iPad and iMac

Summary: The innovative 3D motion controller straight out of Minority Report begins shipping on May 13 (Best Buy on May 19), and could be a key technology in bringing touch to the desktop.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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The Leap Motion controller ($79.99) is one of the most promising gesture-control peripheral I've seen, and I can't wait to get my (ahem) hands on one. What makes it impressive is that it's small, simple, and affordable. It connects to a Mac (or Windows PC) via USB, and allows you to control software using 3D hand and finger gestures in the air above the device.

It's well suited for everything from stylus-based drawing and painting applications to signing PDF documents and creating 3D models with your bare hands. And games? Forget about it. But perhaps the most promising application for the Leap Motion Controller is in window and desktop management in the OS X Finder — yes, like in Minority Report.

According to Leap, Motion is "200 times more accurate than anything else on the market — at any price point." It's about the size of a flash drive, and Leap claims that it can track your individual finger movements to one-hundredth of a millimeter.

The most promising aspect of no-touch controllers like Leap Motion is that they have the potential to solve the last mile problem as desktop computers transform into tablets. Touchscreens are very expensive to add to notebooks and desktop-class monitors, but a gesture-based controller like the Leap Motion could eliminate costly touchscreen panel and solve the ergonomics problems associated with "reaching up" to touch a desktop monitor.

You can bet that Apple is paying very close attention to this technology, and I'd be floored if Apple didn't have something similar in its labs.

Here's a video of the Leap Motion controller in action:

Here's a video of the Leap Motion controller working with one of my favorite list applications: Clear ($6.99 from the Mac App Store):

Clear had this to say about the promising new peripheral:

Over the past couple of months, we've been stealthily working on adding support for this futuristic piece of hardware to Clear for Mac — and today, we're thrilled to announce that Clear for Mac will soon support the rather incredible Leap Motion controller.

You can pre-order your very own Leap Motion controller here for $79.99. They start shipping on May 13 in the order that pre-orders were received and Leap hasn't commented on how many orders it has in the queue.

Are you intrigued by no-touch controllers like Leap Motion? Are you placing a pre-order?

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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8 comments
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  • IMO, new technology should never try to reinvent the wheel.

    Take a close look at the "Leap Motion + Clear for Mac Preview" embedded video. The new Leap technology is performing traditional menu select functions using "gorilla arm" motions or in this case "gorilla finger" motions.

    Those same menu select functions can be better ergonomically performed using the a standard trackpad or mouse.

    I actually am excited about the new Leap Technology. However, I hope that this technology can find more innovative means of interacting with our computer software than what was shown in Jason's second embedded video.
    kenosha77a
    • TrackAir?

      I have to agree with @kenosha77a: I've been excited about the Leap based on the demo video, but watching the Clear video actually made me reconsider, since it looked like it was just a more tiring way of doing the same thing you could do on a trackpad.

      The article compares it to touchscreens, but it clearly falls into the trackpad category, because it provides remote control vs. the visceral feedback that is so essential to the success of touch interfaces. In fact, it seems like a trackpad would be better due to the tactile positioning feedback.

      What remains interesting though, beyond the undeniable "that's just cool" factor, is the apparent responsiveness and accuracy relative to other input methods. I'd much rather write my signature with physical feedback than in the air, but the fluidity and apparent accuracy in the Leap demo video makes it look much better than results I've gotten writing with touch interfaces. That aspect of it suggests that it might have some unique new utility as an input device, if more uses can be found in which the lack of tactile feedback is not a disadvantage.
      ramatsu
    • I tend to agree.

      This looks pretty tiring to use and ranks up there with touch on desktop/laptop without the smudging on the screen. That said, there are some cool uses for window management on multiple monitors that might be cool. Maybe.
      Bruizer
  • Wave of the Future?

    Great possibilities and as it develops with more input, could be another "wave of the future," Pun intended.
    n781lc
  • My Samsung Galaxy III does that...

    Not really, but the Apple haters have vanished from this thread!
    mattmuir
    • Nah

      The're just waiting for there employers responses to get emailed to them.
      Anthony E
  • overrated or what?

    I ordered "my" (2) LEAP motion controllers in Nov. 2012 on their webpage, providing my billing information, as required... and am still waiting, after 3 months for any kind of confirmation.
    As it turns out all the (pre-)order did for these guys, was to provide a solid base of fix orders, to allow investors to press the button for their money-transfers.

    We were used and should sue them for selling all billing information to the highest bidder.
    These guys never intended to deliver devices to those who, in good faith, ordered the devices by providing the information. Now that it is clear that there never was an intention to fulfill a contract bound by moral obligation at least, I want my banking information back AND I want to know to whom these guys sold that information. I want proof of either that, or I want the 2 devices I ordered, PERIOD.
    The duped ones are us. Of course, nobody lost money, but I feel morally cheated by false pretense and promise! The LEAP motion "big-shots" are unfit to run a business.
    IKE:)
  • There is certainly an application

    But who wants to flop their arms around in the air? The whole idea of touch screens for desktops is ridiculous. You can just touch your trackpad and keep your arms on your desk.

    Ever since I got a trackpad for my desktop Mac, I never use a mouse. And Logitech makes one for Windows machines or Linux machines as well.

    They say that orchestra conductors live longer because of the exercise they get from conducting. So, I guess that would be a good excuse if you don't mind working up a sweat in the office. But, otherwise, the use case is pretty specialised.
    jorjitop