Imagine a future where computers no longer require keyboards or mice. With some simple gestures, you can fluidly control motions on a display. You don’t even have to touch the screen itself, and why would you want to anyways?
No, I’m not describing the Kinect. A company called Leap Motion is pioneering the next generation of 3D user interfaces. According to the company, what makes its device better than anything we’ve seen so far is that it is 200 times more accurate than any other comparable product in the market today. Specifically, it is so precise that it can detect finger gestures down to 1/100th of a millimeter.
As you can see in the embedded video above, the Leap can be used to play games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, sketch out your signature, and manipulate a 3D map. The lag you might’ve noticed in existing touch-based tablets is completely absent and according to co-founder Michael Buckwald, the only latency the system experiences is through display refreshes and the USB 2.0 interface.
Gorilla Arm Syndrome
The problem with touch-screens today is that interacting with the screen after awhile can be tiring. Nicknamed gorilla arm, the problem isn’t a concern on smartphones and tablets since most don’t require you to extend your arm out to interact with the screen. But with large displays that typically sit on a desk, the problem becomes more apparent.
Steve Jobs even shared some insight on this issue:
Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after a short period of time you start to fatigue, and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Leap addresses this issue. Based off the video, it’s apparent that you won’t need to make wide-sweeping motions with your arms. Given how precise the system is, simple gestures with just your fingers would be sufficient to manipulate objects on a screen.
What’s in store in 2013?
When the company first released a video previewing its product back in May 2012, the video quickly went viral, having amassed over 7 million views to date. With a very attractive pre-order price of just $69, it’s no surprise that the company has received orders totaling millions of dollars according to its President and COO, Andy Miller.
What makes the Leap so interesting is its application in fields as diverse as health care, art, and engineering. For example, the device could allow surgeons to operate a computer during surgery without ever having to touch anything.
As a result, the company is releasing an SDK and API to allow developers to build applications that take advantage of the Leap’s functionalities. The only limitation now is our imagination.
If you’re interested in creating apps using Leap Motion, you can sign up on the company’s Developer page. In fact, you might even score a free device if you’re lucky.