Leap Motion controller could bridge the chasm between iPad and iMac

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.

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?