Since its launch this past spring, the world has been in awe of the Leap. The tiny piece of hardware promises to connect us to our computers like never before and bring gesture technology to a new and wholly unrealized level — and it’s going to do it for a mere $70.
There are a lot of amazing things about the Leap, but its incredibly compact build and overwhelmingly accuracy tend to overshadow all else. When I met with Leap Motion founders Michael Buckwald and David Holz at launch, however, their appreciation for the user is what really shone through. They told me how smaller, big-money markets wanted the Leap and were willing to pay many times more than what they are currently selling it for, but that they wanted this type of technology to make it into the average consumer’s hands. “We believe people and the human condition can be improved if you give people the incredible power that’s in all computers,” Holz said at the time.
Given the initial interest and their love of the user, their early success with developers comes as no surprise. The startup announced this morning that developers from more than 140 countries and 50 U.S. states have requested Leap units — in the first week, the company had more than 15,000 developer applications. Now the team is ready to make a big push, shipping more free developer units within the next month and continuing thereafter.
At this point, Buckwald says about 30 Leap units have been sent out to developers, and that the startup tried to pick the first handful to best represent to a broad range of consumers what this thing is capable of. “We really wanted some high impact applications that go to the heart of what makes Leap special and achieve this in small frame.” This first batch will be ready when pre-ordered devices reach early buyers in February.
While time and purpose put a few limits on what Leap Motion looked for in its early pick, other pitched products run the gamut. Buckwald mentions one app that helps scientists visual protein structures, and another that turns Facebook into an immersive 3D experience. There’s been a particular amount of interest around developing for gaming and graphics creation and editing. But the focus remains about putting new potential literally into the user’s hands. “At the end of the day, it’s about apps that let people control and interact with their computer,” Buckwald says.
All efforts won’t be third party. Buckwald tells me that Leap Motion itself is working on a set of applications that act as tutorials for the device that will ship with the Leap. Otherwise, he says, a vast majority of apps will be third party and Leap Motion sees the the community flourishing and inspiring the platform.
At the moment, this all exists in private forums, but a deeper platform for community that will include developer wikis and more tools is in the works; this in turn will feed into the Leap’s proprietary app store where creators will be able to commercially distribute their products. Part of the reason for keeping the initial unit rollout for developers limited was so that the company was able to stay supportive of early adopters, Buckwald says. Now it’s ready to take that momentum and grow, something everyone who pre-orders the product should be happy about: a healthy developer platforms means an increasingly usable device at launch.