Leap Motion creates finger-happy gesture control (w/ Video)

May 23, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org) -- Developers and end users both have been indicating they are ready to start saying long goodbyes to mouse and keyboard. In this touchscreen generation of mobile users, the big stir among gadget reviewers this week is the announcement by Leap Motion that you can not only say goodbye to mouse and keyboard, but goodbye to touchscreen, too. "That nice LED display remains clean and untouched, as it should be,” says the company. The San Francisco based company has announced it is accepting pre-orders for its new Leap, a small USB peripheral that performs motion control with in-the-air sweeps of hand and movements of fingers. The Leap creates a 3-D interaction space of eight cubic feet to interact with and control software on a laptop or desktop. This gesture-control device for computers is running rings, and orbs, and swirls, and curlicues, around Kinect, the most well known of technologies that help users interact with computers without mouse and keyboard.

Leap’s web site and team comments in interviews all say that Leap is not just any game system to be confused with living-room playing in front of the TV. Rather, Leap founders took some hard work in years to improve on a technology where the individual mobile user can get at information easily. “Two or three hundred thousands lines of code later, we’ve figured out how to use the Leap to create an interaction space around your computer, in 3-D. Able to distinguish thumbs from fingers, and even handheld items like pencils,” according to the company site.

The video will load shortly

Swipes in the air and nuanced finger gestures zoom and pinch and move pages and manipulate other image feats. Gestures create anything from rings, to orb eruptions, to swirls and curlicues, to handwriting, at times hands seemingly reaching inside the screen to extract content. Leap consists of a USB input device and software platform. Its size is described variously as no bigger than “a packet of chewing gum” to “no bigger than a pocket knife.” The Leap plugs into a USB port. The user loads the Leap Motion software and “waves” to calibrate.

The 3-D motion-control system is available for pre order at $70. The company estimates the units will ship in December this year or January 2013.

The technical strengths do not come from one-off discovery but from tedious years of careful research. The Leap gesture recognition is claimed to be 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market. The other advantage being promoted is comfort. If you have to keep waving your arms around, you quickly tire. With Leap, finger movements are less fatiguing and more efficient. The original inspiration behind Leap came from frustration over 3-D modeling—something taking ten seconds in real life could take 30 minutes with a computer. Molding virtual clay should be as easy as molding real clay, thought the company leaders. They felt that the mouse and were simply getting in the way.

Leap Motion is presently reaching out to software developers, as developer participation will be important to the product’s growth, The company is accepting applications for software developer kits in the hopes of growing applications available at launch.

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More information: www.leapmotion.com/

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not rated yet May 23, 2012
I'm impressed. Cheap and responsive. How do they manage to do this without lag?
5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
Not jumping on the bandwagon, to steal a small portion of the innovator's profits, but taking a useful concept, and developing it into a grown-up product in its own right.
not rated yet May 23, 2012
Looks cool for most 'casual interaction', though I'd be concerned that when using a PC for long periods at work that I might get arm or shoulder ache. One nice thing about the trusty old keyboard and mouse is the way you really only need move your fingers, the hands and arms are mostly relaxed and supported by the desk.

Such accurate non-contact control is especially good for situations where hygiene is important.
3.4 / 5 (5) May 23, 2012
If its to replace a mouse and keyboard, how do you type? How do you right-click to choose Properties? How do point and click/select? The demo showed none of this. Fancy stuff that CSI TV shows will seize upon, but you know what? I'm quite happy with a mouse and keyboard.
not rated yet May 23, 2012
Hey! They took my money!

Product in December....
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
I'm a little surprised that there aren't already more 'This is teh suxxorz! Keyboard and mouse FTW forevar!' comments yet. For those of you thinking of posting those comments, don't bother. If you don't like the idea, don't buy it. For those of us that could actually use something like this it's great that it's finally coming out. As it says, this could help with 3D modeling immensely. I already showed it to some engineers and they all said they would love to try it if it could work with their design programs.

Jimbaloid, ergonomically you are not supposed to rest your palms or wrists on a surface while typing, and unless your mouse sensitivity is turned way up most people have to use at least a little wrist movement. If you're mostly moving your fingers for this device it might not be as tiring as you think.

Sherrin, it may be sensitive enough that a person could type in the air, or write with a stylus and let OCR convert it. Possibly even a method of input we haven't thought of yet.
5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
For mouse replacement - great! For keyboard replacement - forget it. Keyboard is not replaceable by any yet invented device. Just nothing is so convenient to enter text.
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
People buying this device are likely going to use the gesture interface. However, a proficient typist may want to be able to type and they dont really need a keyboard per se. It would be nice if the device could be turned on its side to scan the space on the desk in front of the user and allow the user to use normal typing motions on the top of the desk. Sweeping your middle finger on the desk could be interpreted as a mouse move, tapping your index or ring fingers while your middle finger is down could be interpreted as a left or right mouse click respectively. For those who need to see the keyboard, a mouse pad type thing with a keyboard and mouse pad area silkscreened onto it that is the approximate size of a standard keyboard would be handy. A user could lay that on the desk if they needed visual cues to type or move a mouse.
1.3 / 5 (3) May 23, 2012
For mouse replacement - great! For keyboard replacement - forget it. Keyboard is not replaceable by any yet invented device. Just nothing is so convenient to enter text.

Nothing? How about my smartphone and google's voice to text software? it makes fewer mistakes than i do when typing.
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2012
I wonder what happens if you stick your face into the field. It would be really cool to use the Leap interface for facial performance capture. Imagine having a 3D avatar whose head, mouth, and facial expressions mimicked yours in real-time.

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