I’ve been waiting for quite a while for my Leap Motion controller to turn up. I didn’t in the slightest mind that it was running late thanks to the fantastic job the company did in keeping me informed and making me feel involved. And yesterday, finally, it came.
The technology itself is fearsomely clever. It’s a bit like a Kinect for the computer – only smaller, cheaper and better. Using two cameras and three infrared sensors, jammed into a neat box about the size of a large USB-key, it faultlessly tracks my hands in three dimensions. I wave my hands and a globe rotates, push inwards towards the screen and I zoom in. Or I just move my hands about and sparks and fire respond on the screen. Or I can examine a skull in 3D, pointing with my finger and clicking on objects by simply moving my thumb. It’s really very, very clever. It’s also pretty much a gimmick right now.
I really feel that Leap Motion is right on the cutting edge of something. But I have no idea what that something is. The problem right now is that when I first read about Leap Motion I thought I’d be able to use it to control my computer – a bit like a mouse, a trackpad and a touch screen all rolled into one and made virtual. This, is not that. The interface is there, but it’s interfacing with games. It’s just not providing anything, other than a sense of awe and magic, that I couldn’t achieve with a mouse or trackpad.
Perhaps as the range of apps available increases someone will come up with a killer idea. Even today I can see this being really useful in an environment like a museum. But in terms of a home or professional user I’m struggling.
If Leap Motion had cost more I’d feel let down. That said, the whole kit cost me $80 which is a level of pain I’m prepared to pay to try out the technology and see where it goes.