Hands-on with The Leap: It’s smaller, better, and faster than you even thought

the leapCheck out our full review of the Leap Motion gesture controller.

This week consumer motion tech made big steps — leaps actually. Startup Leap Motion introduced The Leap, a pocket-sized piece of technology that turns laptops and desktops into hands-free devices.

And this isn’t just a Kinect thrown at a computer, far from it. The accuracy with which co-founders Michael Buckwald and David Holz were able to outfit the device with is astounding, and nearly defies words. The demo video that’s now been seen across the world wide Web looks more like sci-fi than real life. Fortunately for all of us, it now is real life.

I had the chance to go hands-on with The Leap (check out the video after the break), and its ability to capture the minutiae of your movements immediately calls to mind every time I’ve had to repeatedly wave my arm to get the Kinect to work.

Despite the obvious connection, Buckwald tells me that The Leap has its own origins. “It wasn’t motivated by the Kinect or existing technology, but by a deep frustration with something that should be simple,” he says. “A three-year-old can do something with clay, but it takes someone with an advanced education to do that with a computer.”

Buckwald and Holz are childhood friends, who started working on the idea behind The Leap some five years ago. “The way we approached this is fundamentally different than how other people approach motion tech… we didn’t iterate on someone else’s idea,” says Buckwald. “We started from the ground up and tried lots of novel methods that had never been used before. This is why we were able to make it dramatically smaller and more powerful, more CPU efficient, and cheaper. Normally all those things don’t align at once but they can if the method is new and different.”

There are lots of things about The Leap that are jaw-dropping, and one of them is the price. The device is available for pre-order now for $70. Buckwald and Holz tell me the price tag was a weighted decision.

“Lots of people we talked to said we should sell it for a lot of money, and there was certainly a temptation to go the easy route and sell them for lots of money to smaller markets… but we believe people and the human condition can be improved if you give people the incredible power that’s in all computers.”

“Giving people more power seemed more appropriate to make this ubiquitous. We didn’t have to, but it feels consistent with the vision.”

hands on with the leapIn person, The Leap is even smaller and more Apple-like than it seems in pictures. It’s incredibly lightweight, slim, and sleek. It’s nothing like some of clunky hardware accessories we’ve seen that give laptops and computers next-gen capabilities. Tobii and its eye-tracking tech comes to mind, and while it’s amazing, it’s still not exactly discreet (although it’s worth mentioning Tobii is making progress in this department). But this thing is barely noticeable, and it doesn’t feel breakable either.

It’s clear from my brief time using The Leap and talking to Buckwald and Holz that they’re personally excited about what they’ve accomplished. While taking me through its features, Holz was as excited as if it were the first time he’d played Fruit Ninja and used Google Maps with it — and by my approximation, he was days deep in demos.

Leap Motion intends to start working with OEMs to integrate this technology into bezels, keyboards, and monitors, to make the PC experience even more streamlined. And from there, the sky’s the limit: smartphones, cars, appliances — you name it, The Leap can be developed for it.

“It’s a very immature area of computer science,” says Buckwald. “People have been trying to do this for decades but it’s incredibly difficult. It’s still ripe for dramatic innovation.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Audi's new A8 is so sophisticated and serene, it practically deletes potholes

The 2019 Audi A8’s outline looks promising: Level 3 autonomous driving capability, haptic-feedback infotainment screens, rear-wheel steering, Matrix LED headlights and OLED taillights, plus a predictive suspension.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

What the heck is machine learning, and why is it everywhere these days?

Machine learning has been responsible for some of the biggest advances in artificial intelligence over the past decade. But what exactly is it? Check out our handy beginner's guide.
Computing

Problems with Microsoft’s Windows October 2018 Update aren’t over yet

Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2018 update is not having a great launch. More than two weeks after its debut and Microsoft is still putting out fires as new bugs are discovered and there's no sign of its re-release as of yet.
Computing

Adobe’s craziest new tools animate photos, convert recordings to music in a click

Adobe shared a glimpse behind the scenes at what's next and the Creative Cloud future is filled with crazy A.I.-powered tools, moving stills, and animation reacting to real-time tweets.
Computing

Chrome 70 is now available and won’t automatically log you in to the browser

Google has officially launched Chrome version 70 on Windows Mac and Linux. The update introduces some new Progressive Web App integrations on Windows 10 and also tweaks the much controversial auto login with Google Account feature.
Computing

Corsair’s latest SSD boasts extremely fast speeds at a more affordable price

Despite matching and besting the performance of competing solid-state drives from Samsung and WD, the Corsair Force Series MP510 comes in at a much more affordable price. Corsair boasts extremely fast read and write speeds.
Computing

New Windows 10 19H1 preview lets users remove more pre-installed Microsoft apps

With the release of the latest Windows 10 19H1 preview build on October 17, Microsoft is letting some consumers remove more of the pre-installed inbox app bloatware from their machines. 
Computing

Apple’s 2020 MacBooks could ditch Intel processors, arrive with ‘ARM Inside’

If you're buying a MacBook in 2020, be on the lookout for a new "ARM Inside" banner. Apple is reportedly working on transitioning away from Intel processors for its MacOS lineup in favor of new custom A-series ARM-based silicon.
Social Media

Tumblr promises it fixed a bug that left user data exposed

A bug on blogging site Tumblr left user data exposed. The company says that once it learned of the flaw, it acted quickly to fix it, adding that it's confident no data linked to its users' accounts was stolen.
Computing

Microsoft patent highlights a potential VR text input system

A new patent awarded to Microsoft could lead to a new typing method for virtual reality and on Xbox consoles. The virtual radial dial puts letters within easy reach of joystick commands and offers predictive typing, too.
Computing

Ryzen shine! AMD’s next CPUs could beat Intel at gaming in 2019

AMD's upcoming Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs could offer as much as a 13-percent increase in instruction per clock. With clock speed or core count increases, that could gave them a huge performance boost.
Computing

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 packs Snapdragon 850 into Always Connected Windows 2-in-1

The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 is set to go on sale at the start of November and should be a solid addition the collection of Always Connected Windows laptops. It packs a Snapdragon 850 and a 20-hour battery.