Introducing The Leap – A New Touch-Free Way To Interact With Your Computer

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interact with computerA couple of weeks ago San Francisco-based Leap Motion announced a new input device called The Leap, an iPod-sized sensor that sits in front of your computer and provides a virtual 3D space that you can manipulate using your fingers.

Using technology similar to that found in Microsoft’s Kinect, The Leap is considerably more sensitive than the current optical input methods and can track movement at an accuracy of 1/100th of a millimetre. At present, developers are confidently predicting the technology will be available by the end of the year.

What Is It?

Physically, The Leap is a small silver rectangle with a sensor pointing upwards, hidden behind a panel of black plastic. From a design standpoint, The Leap looks like something Apple might have come up with. Operationally, both Windows and OS X will be supported from the outset with the FAQ hinting at eventual Linux support, though as with many products this might take a while.

interact with computer

The Leap is designed to sit right in front of your monitor or laptop and sense movement with startling accuracy. Along with a flick of your pinky or wave of the hand, the device is designed to detect small items like pencils and chopsticks, and allows for gestures like pinch-to-zoom to be used in a 3D, touch-free sensor space.

Leap Motion initially created The Leap after seeking to speed up the drawn-out process of 3D modelling in comparison to physically creating a model in the real world. The ability to use your hands to manipulate a 3D object has obvious advantages, and the company wanted to bring that functionality to the consumer level.

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interact with computing technology

Some of the more basic uses include navigation (Windows 8 virtual touch support is apparently already taken care of) and sensitive input operations, such as signing your name using a pencil in mid-air. Drawing, taking notes, playing Angry Birds – these are all things possible using The Leap with current technology, but it is future developments that will realise the true potential offered by such a device.

One Giant Leap

According to the designers, The Leap is “like day one of the mouse”. From this hyperbole it’s safe to assume that Leap Motion are likening the advantages of their new device to the birth of the optical pointing device – a bold claim.

The mouse played an important part in the development of the graphical user interface, and ultimately made computers more user-friendly and approachable by removing the dependence on command-line interfaces. It makes sense that the next logical step would be to distance the user from physical devices, further simplifying the process of control. To pinch a line from The Leap’s marketing spiel – “you don’t need an instruction manual for your hands”.

interact with computer

If the team behind the device have it their way, The Leap is set to revolutionise interaction with user interfaces in a big way. Imagine if common electronic devices were controllable using a series of simple and natural gestures and movements. Now imagine that same technology with a startling degree of accuracy, and you’re sharing the same vision held by Leap Motion.

The team would like to see the technology used in everything from computers to appliances, cars, medical technologies and even light switches. But life begins on the desktop, and that is where The Leap will initially be tested. The opportunities offered by the device are huge, both for consumers and developers working on applications. Unlike Kinect, however, The Leap doesn’t have a big software, gaming or manufacturing giant behind it; and that’s bound to stifle the revolution somewhat.

Where Do I Get One?

If you’ve been impressed by what you’ve read and seen thus far, then you’d better sit down before you hear the best bit. Not only is this technology apparently shipping by the end of the year, but at an affordable $69.99 price point.

If you’re a developer with big ideas then you might find yourself with a free unit, so head on over to the developers hub to convince the manufacturers to give you one before everyone else. For the rest of us, $70 seems to be a fair price point – considerably less than the Kinect’s launch price, mirroring that of Apple’s Magic Trackpad.

At the time of writing there are still some pre-order units left for those of you willing to put your payment details where your mouth is, but many will probably wait to see how developers respond to the new device. There’s no arguing that the possibilities are vast, and I’m sure The Leap will make the perfect addition to your desk whether you’re an artist, gamer, musician or just bored of traditional input methods.

Conclusion

The Leap represents a significant step forward for touch-free, motion sensing technology and the sensible price point means you won’t need to be a finished artist, CEO or stinking rich to get your hands on one.

The potential and many applications here are truly exciting but If the device really is going to be the revolution in UI control that Leap Motion would like, then it will require some clever integration into the software we use on a daily basis.

How would you use The Leap? Will you buy one? Angry Birds, chopstick-style? Have your say in the comments, below.

Image Credits: Leap Motion

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45 Comments - Write a Comment

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AriesWarlock

This looks great. So I could use this instead of a Wacom tablet?!

Laga Mahesa

You could use your Wacom tablet as a stylus, lol.

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Laga Mahesa

Five minutes after I saw the first reports on this beast I preordered mine – first preorder I have ever done, in fact. Then my colleague did the same.

Even including the international shipping fee, it’s a steal at that price – if it doesn’t live up to expectations I won’t be too worried about it.

Tim Brookes

Yeah I’d totally agree with that logic. The potential is huge, so I’d say it’s worth a punt too. You might have just convinced me to preorder…

Laga Mahesa

DOIT! Or face a massive waiting list when everyone realizes how cool their mate’s new toy turned out to be.

Tina

Ha! I pre-ordered two. Perfect Christmas gift. :)

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Shehan Nirmal

Actually it looks so great…!!!

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Dom_TC

This does look really awesome I will pre-order one as soon as I have some more money!

Thanks for the article

Tim Brookes

No worries, it’s fun exploring future tech especially exciting new input devices like this!

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Sachin Kanchan

i already saw this on youtube….its just godly

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Mihovil Pletikos

it looks great, let’s wait now how ms with kinnect can answer to that…. (i know it’s not the same thing but…)

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James Bruce

It looks absolutely incredible – far better and with more real world use cases than the kinect – but something tells me the actual device simply won’t live up to the speed or accuracy thats shown in the tech demo video. I hope it does though, and I’ve now preordered one too!

Laga Mahesa

Yup, agreed – and, like I said before, at that price it’s not a big deal if expectations aren’t lived up to. At the very least it’d be a new cool way to fiddle with a software DJ mixer like Traktor at parties, lol.

Tim Brookes

I know it’s happened before, but the company would be digging their own grave if they grossly exaggerated. My main issue with the whole thing is the question over who is going to be evolving our everyday Windows and Mac OS X operating systems to take full advantage of the potential here.

The fact that Leap isn’t owned or affiliated with either Apple or Microsoft means that this might remain an affordable, incredibly advanced yet somewhat neglected desk toy. Of course, if it’s a real game changer then it’ll own bones anyway.

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Chris Clarkson

Definitely want! Gaming might be interesting though…

Laga Mahesa

Hah, yeah, double your spazz value with a VR helmet with flashing lights for extra effect. :)

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arman2

This together with NFC,AppleAir, MS Glass = starks holographic interface.WHAT!!! Definitely getting one. It be fun using it with multiple monitors!

Ron

I pictured wadding up a file and tossing it in the trash when I first saw this thing online :-)

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Thegreatvinay

Awesome !!!!

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Samsudeen Hussain

I am not a techie person. so i hope some one can help me with my qustion. Right now i am using windows 7. If i use it on my system, can i use it on all programs and games i currently have or will it only work on games and apps specifically created for this tool.

Tim Brookes

Think of it like a mouse, where basic OS interaction will be possible probably via cursor control. It will then take some real optimisation (which might actually never come) to make the programs and OS you use every day fully optimised.

The potential is huge, but much like Kinect it’s going to take more than linking it to a pointer to really get the most out of it.

Also, we still don’t really know how good or how integrated it will be, and we probably won’t until a couple of weeks before launch.

Samsudeen Hussain

Thank you for your reply. If we are going to just use this as an alternative for mouse we might only end up having hand ache for waving our hand in thin air all day long. For lazy people like me this might be a good way to burn some calories from their desk.

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CoyZan

I want one and i don’t even know why. This is going to be the NEXT BIG THING.

Tim Brookes

I know right. We’ve got a 6 month wait first though…

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GamE

what about MS Kinect?

Tim Brookes

Well Kinect is more of a full body experience, and this focuses just on your fingers, arms or whatever you happen to be holding at the time.

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45f8035ca9ce54c53678df029ccfdd90

I pre-ordered one. Can’t wait.

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Scutterman

I saw this a few weeks ago. What stopped me pre-ordering was the fact that will likely be difficult to use for extended periods – the arms aren’t used to being held aloft for that long. Also, most of my work is typing, so it would just end up sitting there.

Tim Brookes

Yeah it’s a good point, and one I find true about Kinect. Augmenting games that use a control with voice commands and the occasional gesture isn’t bad, but games that demand you to stand up and jump around for ages don’t really appeal to me.

I’m not too worried about The Leap though myself.

Scutterman

Who knows, maybe the increase in this kind of technology will change how our arm muscles develop from a young age. I know that I have longer fingers than most people I know, which I believe is due to the amount of typing I do. It may be that in a generation or two after this technology becomes more common, people will have no trouble working in this way.

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Ben Sutton

I’ve pre-ordered one, but it’s a shame I probably wont be able to use it until either official drivers are made for linux, or until the community hacks something together..

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Bob Smith

Whats wrong with using a mouse and keyboard, seems like nothing more than a gimmick to me.

Frank Koustrup

Bob, you must not have been working long enough with computers to have been damaged by repetitive stress injuries. With competent training (typing class), the keyboard is survivable. But the mouse is the main devil; I fired mine in favor of a mix of track pads, track balls, keyboard shortcuts, and frequent pauses. Poor posture from hours of sitting and the inevitable slouching makes everything worse. Voice recognition has improved but is not great in cubicle-land. The problem derives from small, precise movements that are repeated often and over long periods of time. The human body is not built for such activity; we are designed to walk around and move our limbs in many directions. So yes, this motion capture device at that price certainly looks worth a try.

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Lynn Clark

i love this site….but you’ll be filling up weeks of my life pursuing even a few of these best of sites/apps/programs…..whew….

Tim Brookes

Sorry about that, we just love finding cool stuff!

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anukulsangwan

Will it support my assembled computer?

Tim Brookes

It will be supported by Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X (not sure which version, Lion and Mountain Lion certainly. Developers say that support for Linux is also planned but as I said in the article, this is probably the last thing on the engineers’ list of things to do.

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Minimitch

I think this is a great idea, and the video shows that its pretty accurate! But the only problem I have with this is that, this can’t be used for long periods of time, because obviously, your arms are going to ache!

It would be preferable to attaching it to your monitor, and you can just sit back, rest your arms on the arm rest, and just flick away!

Tim Brookes

Well technically the only thing stopping you from plugging your laptop/PC into a TV across the room (or even projector) and sitting in a nice comfortable chair pointing and flicking away is the length of the cable.

I’m hoping for a slightly pricier (but ultimately worth it) wireless version, myself!

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Leap Motion World

Anyone interested in sharing their ideas about the Leap should head over to Leap Motion World a dedicated fansite/forum for anyone interested in the Leap.

http://www.leapmotionworld.com

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PJ Wessels

Touch free. Wow. Looks sick.

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Dany Bouffard

The concept is great, but I will wait until its proven to be accurate and really works well to order mine.

Tim Brookes

Yeah, that’s the only reason I haven’t ordered one. Well, that and I’ve got other things already available I need to spend my money on! I have got fingers and toes crossed that it’s every bit as good as these videos have made it look though…

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Truefire_

This could be great. If it proves itself upon release, I’m buying it!

Thanks for the great article!

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Dylan

Cool, Now people can become more lazy.

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