Leap brings affordable motion control to the PC

The LeapCheck out our full review of the Leap Motion gesture controller.

Today Leap Motion introduced its flagship product, a tiny, $70, motion sensor device that makes small screens hands-free devices. The target here is to give laptop and desktop monitors  Kinect-like response, making them more pliable, human-friendly machines. According to Leap Motion, it’s the Leap’s heightened accuracy that makes this all possible.

“The Leap creates a three-dimensional interaction space of 4 cubic feet to control a computer more precisely and quickly than a mouse or touchscreen, as reliably as a keyboard,” according to the company’s press release. “Leap Motion’s patented software, the heart of the Leap, represents four years of research and a series of major mathematical breakthroughs by co-founder and CTO David Holz.”

Leap Motion says the Leap is accurate to within 1/100 of a millimeter, making actions like pinch to zoom possible. It goes above and beyond the Kinect, which is obviously for larger motions and bigger screens altogether. The Leap makes things like signing documents or creating 3D models possible.

writing with the leapImplementing new methods of control into desktops and laptops has proven difficult. While devices like the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect – as well as the massive influx of touchscreens – have reshaped how we interact with our personal electronics, the computer has remained old school. Manufacturers are starting to introduce touchscreens into our PCs, but it’s been a relatively half-hearted effort. There is this barrier between work and play that the battle between tablets and computers has highlighted, and any intersection between these modes and devices hasn’t really gelled with consumers yet. The PhotoShop iPad app is a great example of this: it brings out all the fun of using PhotoShop but fails to include some of the necessary elements for work.

The Leap is part of a new wave of innovation hardware makers are trying to inject into what’s increasingly seen as old technology. Tobii eye tracking technology and its integration with Windows 8 is another great example of how we can bring the PC into the tablet age and give it an edge it didn’t have before – without just slapping a touchscreen on it.

But The Leap’s creators are already seeing beyond the PC. “In addition to the Leap for computers, our core software is versatile enough to be embedded in a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, cars and refrigerators,” CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald says. “One day 3D motion control will be in just about every device we interact with, and thanks to the Leap, that day is coming sooner than anyone expected.”

Later this week we’ll get some hands-on time with The Leap. Until then, this video demo will have to suffice. 

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