Gesture control has become a budding industry since the Kinect launched and brought it to the masses. And recently, we were introduced to the Leap, a tiny, seemingly-magic piece of hardware that has gesture control down to a science – literally. Not only that, but it’s a relatively cheap device, only costing $70.
I had a chance to go hands-on with the Leap, and the experience is unbelievable. The response is incredibly accurate, and it can pick up the tiniest, subtlest of movements.
It’s easily stolen the gesture movement spotlight for the moment, but there’s another surprising solution out there that deserves some attention. The Y Combinator-backed Flutter launched this spring, bringing gesture control to Mac OS via its downloadable application. The app uses your Mac’s Webcam and allows its users to pause and skip songs on iTunes and Spotify, as well as manipulate your Quick Time Player.
The app has had an impressive launch, and is still one of the most popular Mac App Store downloads. In my hands-on, it’s a bit glitchy but in general functions as it should: you toggle the app “on” once you have your desired music/content program up and running, then hold your hand 1-6 feet away from the Webcam. Simply holding your open palm toward the camera will trigger pause and play. After using the Leap, it feels slow and unresponsive, but of course it’s a no-hardware required, free product, so it isn’t really fair to compare the results.
But what’s encouraging is that, as TechCrunch first reported, Flutter just landed a $1.4 million fundraising round from a number of big name firms, including Start Fund, Spring Ventures, NEA (which also backs Lytro), and Andreessen Horowitz. “We will be using money to build our team, developer more gestures/apps, and scale to different platforms including tablets and Windows,” founder Mehul Nariyawala told me via email. “Next on the horizon is more gestures for the current app, as we have been inundated with requests for more gestures. Hence, [the] #1 plan is to build-out our product and satisfy our awesome users!!”
At the moment, the Windows app is in beta, so that’s a work in progress. The hope is that Flutter will work on sophisticating the accuracy, the apps it works with, and add those new gestures – things like a scroll to select a new song, or swipe to skip ahead would make the product many times more useful and engaging.
The Webcam is a fairly underutilized piece of technology and more and more companies are looking at developing standalone solutions for gesture control. Even if the Webcam is only used for the simplest of simple tasks, it means that virtually all PC owners would be able to use gesture control for everyday purposes.