Don’t look now, but a start-up out of San Francisco, aptly named Leap Motion, might have just made traditional pointing devices obsolete. Now that I think about it, they might have made the touch screen obsolete as well. Leap claims to have made a giant, well, leap forward in motion tracking devices and it just may change how we interact with devices. This device could put traditional desktop computing at the whim of your finger tips… literally.
Motion-based control has long been a holy grail of sorts in science fiction. For us mere mortals in the real world, it became a reality with the Nintendo Wii. The Wiimote wasn’t very precise at fine motor functions, but for the first time you could bowl, drive, bat, and shoot a virtual firearm in ways that mimic real life. Microsoft later upped the ante with their Kinect sensor for Xbox 360 and later Windows PCs. The Kinect ditched the remote and used a sensor bar full of cameras to track your movements for a far smoother experience.
Leap is taking this one step forward and is claiming its product is 100 times more accurate than the Kinect sensor, able to track movements 1/100th of a millimeter. In fact, Leap’s sensor is so sensitive as to mimic the fine motor functions of a smartphone touch screen. The company’s demo video shows the user employing multi-touch gestures such as swipes and pinching and zooming, using the hands as a game controller, and even writing and drawing with a stylus, and to top it off using a pair of chopsticks to play Angry Birds.
For consumers, Leap is taking pre-orders for the device on their website for $69.99 USD. Release date was not immediately available. For qualified developers, Leap is offering a free development kit. The SDK supports Mac OS X and Windows 7/8 including Windows 8’s native touch emulation support. Support for Linux and other platforms is on Leap’s to-do list. Developer kits can be expected in 1-3 months.