Leap Motion begins shipping, about a year ahead of its time

The release of products like Pebble and Google Glass into the wild signal a new era in wearable computing, but are we ready for air gestures with our computers?

Leap Motion begins shipping, about a year ahead of its time - Jason O'Grady

In February I wrote about Leap Motion, a futuristic peripheral that allows you to control your computer with "air gestures," by moving your hands in the air. The Leap Motion controller began shipping this weekend and I received mine in the mail today. Although some people that place pre-orders got theirs over the weekend, Leap just posted the software today. 

It was originally slated to begin shipping in Mid-May, but Leap ran into production problems and had to push back delivery two months to account for a larger and longer beta period.

The Leap Motion hardware – about the large USB flash drive – consists of two cameras, three infared LEDs, and a USB controller, but the secret sauce is in the software algorithm that tracks all 10 of your fingers as you wave them in the air above the device. 

Many people have compared Leap Motion to the hand gestures used by Tom Cruise's character in the 2002 movie Minority Report, but it's more about finger finesse and subtle screen control than it is about swiping large halographic panels of information to and fro. After you install the Leap Motion software, it installs the Airspace Store (a repository of apps designed for the controller) and five demo apps to get you started with the device.

Leap Motion apps in the Airspace store - Jason O'Grady

The Getting Started video, shows how to setup the device on a Mac.

While using it definitely feels futuristic, Leap takes a fair amount of getting used to. I was able to fumble my way around the Shimsham and Molecules apps, but Cut The Rope was an unmitigated disaster on my first attempt but I'm willing to chalk that up to a totally new category of peripheral and less than an hour of actually using it. While the apps and UI are a little rough around the edges, Leap Motion shows a lot of potential and I can't help but root for a company placing such a big bet on a touchless, 3D interface for computers. 

It's early yet, but I like what I see. It feels like the future.

Leap Motion is novel in these early days but I can't wait to see what kind of innovative applications are developed to exploit its innovative sensors. Someday when motion sensors are built into every computer (Leap Motion has announced partnerships with HP and ASUS), it's conceivable that we won't touch our computers at all, but instead just point, swipe and gesture in the air in front of them. 


If you want to find out more, CNET has posted a photo gallery, a video demo, and a video interview with Leap Motion's Eric Lau.

Leap Motion is available now for $79.99 plus shipping.