Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Leap Motion 3D Motion Controller

The new Leap Motion controller arrived on 24th July 2013 a couple of days after launch after months of waiting.  I was pretty excited by what this 3D Motion Control device could do.  This is a record of my first couple of hours of life with Leap Motion.

What is Leap Motion?


Leap Motion is a sensor that creates an 8 cubic foot 3D zone within which anything you wave around is tracked.  It can identify two hands, individual fingers and sense objects like pens and paintbrushes.  You can buy one for just under £77/$88 with shipping.

Leap Motion Out of the Box

The Leap Motion comes in a neat box reminiscent of many Apple products.  In it are the Leap Motion controller itself, short and long USB cables and a welcome card pointing to leapmotion.com/setup


The link takes me to download either Windows or Mac software and then plays a nice intro video while waiting and looking at the sensor.  It's got a good solid feel with sleek materials again matching the design quality of Apple products.  It has a non-slip rubber base, sandblasted aluminium sides and glassy top surface.  Very sexy looking item.


Installation on Mac is completed by double clicking the downloaded leap motion package and following the installers simple instructions.  The standard installation size is 215.8MB and takes a couple of minutes finishing by launching 'Airspace'.


Driver installation finishes with a nice demo of some of the Leap's basic capabilities e.g. interacting with a swarm of lights, seeing skeleton hands and drawing with a finger.




Pretty exciting stuff so far.  Airspace is the Leap Motion's app store and this launches after the demo.

Leap Motion in Action

These initial apps download *slowly* show, causing a break in the excitement.


They are all pretty 'Meh...' but show off the possibilities of the Leap Motion.  The Leap Motion's 'Airspace Store' has a surprisingly large number of apps (not quite 100 but it is new) including touchless control for Mac and Windows.  The most engaging free app for the Mac I found was here.com/leap that allows you to fly a paper plane over a Google Earth map of lots of major cities using your hand for control. Here's a video of amateurish flying over London taking in Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and back round again.


I found a review of Leap Motion on ExtremeTech which I thought was excessively negative in its opinion of the Leap's usability - it really isn't as bad as is made out.  I did agree that your arms do get a little tired and the current *early* apps could be improved.

Overall the advent of the Leap Motion is an exciting addition in the man-machine interface world opening up possibilities for more organic control of apps and creative interaction.  I can see particular application in point of sale kiosks, controls for video DJs/lighting at live events and corporate presentations/collaboration.