The new Leap 3D motion control boasts 200 times more accuracy than Kinect.
I’ve had a Kinect installed on my Xbox 360 for the past few weeks. My wife likes Dance Central 2, but trying to actually use Kinect to navigate the Xbox menus will quickly piss you right off as you frantically wave your hands in gestures the thing never seems to grok. The Leap 3D motion control system blows Kinect out of the water, if the demonstration video is to be believed. Using a simple sensor connected by USB to your PC, and proprietary software, the Leap can detect movements as small as a hundredth of a millimeter. That level of accuracy opens the door for touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom, aiming a gun in shooters, or even using a stylus in the air to sign your name.
As a startup company, Leap Motion has raised a ton of money, and the plan is to release the Leap 3D next summer for consumers at a price point around $70. To make sure there’s an abundance of applications ready to use Leap when it debuts, the company is now accepting applications for distribution of its SDK. Leap will release 15 to 20 thousand free developer kits in the next year, forging an open system in stark contrast to Microsoft’s initial closed system with Kinect. (Microsoft later released its SDK in response to the Kinect hacking phenomenon.)
Leap is doing something different. “We believe that ultimately, the sheer number of use cases for this technology are so great that the value can only be realized by making it open,” CEO Michael Buckwald said. “So think what would have happened if the mouse had been initially been released as a closed technology. The impact would have been a tiny, tiny percentage of what the impact was because it was an open system that anyone could develop for.”
With this level of accurate control, Buckwald’s goals for the Leap are nothing short of a revolution. “The goal is to fundamentally transform how people interact with computers and to do so in the same way that the mouse did, which means that the transformation affects everyone, both from the most basic use case all the way up to the most advanced use cases you can imagine for computing technology,” he said.
The bullet points of what the Leap is capable of are encouraging, and herald a new age of PC control:
- Navigating an operating system or browsing Web pages with the flick of a finger
- Finger-pinching to zoom in on maps
- Letting engineers interact with a 3D model of clay
- Precision drawing in either two- or three-dimensions
- Manipulating complex 3D data visualizations
- Playing games, including those that require very “fast-twitch” control
- Signing digital documents by writing in air
Screw Minority Report and Tom Cruise’s lame glove. The Leap is more like Tony Stark’s hologram computer system.