A new product has been unveiled that claims it will revolutionize the way you interact with your computer.
If you watched Minority Report and thought that the computer interface Tom Cruise’s character used was something you would like to use, you might be getting your shot sooner rather than later. A new USB device called The Leap purports to make just such an interface possible. It works by creating a three-dimensional bubble about eight cubic feet in volume of what the creators are calling “interaction space.” The device is supposedly capable of detecting your gestures down to an accuracy of .01 millimeters, making it roughly 200 times more accurate than the other well-known gesture technology, Microsoft’s Kinect.
The video posted below was provided by Leap Motion, the company behind this new product, and apparently shows footage from a real unit, rather than a computer rendering and fancy post-processing effects. Before you ask any questions, let me answer a few that I know you’re going to ask. First off, no, we have no idea what hardware is hidden inside The Leap. Leap Motion has said nothing about the tech, other than claiming it’s “unlike anything currently on the market.” While that’s obviously press-release phrasing for “we don’t want to tell you how it works,” what it probably uses is either some form of LIDAR (a light-based form of radar) or a higher definition version of the Kinect sensor, which only uses a 640×480 camera. On the software side, we also have no idea what kind of magic is at work other than Leap Motion’s vague “patented mathematical approach.”
The Leap is available for pre-order for $70, and Leap Motion expects to ship the device early next year. Developers can get a free unit and an SDK, though there is more than likely a limit to the number of devices that will be given away. More information should be available as soon as the device is released to developers.
I have doubts about the practicality of the device, as personally I know that holding my arm out for hours every day in order to use my computer would be extremely tiring. I also have my doubts about the interaction being somehow faster or more efficient than a mouse and keyboard. I could see it heralding a new age in mobile interactions, however, and I think this kind of technology will see great promise in that field. We will keep our eyes on Leap Motion; we could be witnessing a revolution in interaction, or another flash-in-the-pan company with a promising idea that fails to deliver.