The Leap Motion controller attempts to bring fine-grained gesture-based motion-control to PCs, using fingers in a way that reminds of a Minority Report-like experience. Its currently available in the US to the backers of the product on Kickstarter, and those are the first wave of Leap Motion owners who will be getting their hands on it.
Reviews of the controller have also gone up online, so those of you curious about the device may want to read through those before putting down the estimated R2,000 to get one shipped to South Africa. While the reviews have been positive as far as the Leap Motion’s future capabilities are concerned, its current performance leaves a lot to be desired.
Engadget said that their experience with the Leap Motion was interesting, and discovered that there are a total of 58 apps for Mac and 54 apps for Windows. Mac nets fourteen exclusives, while Windows has to make do with only nine exclusive applications.
Engadget’s hands-on experience was a bit of a let down, with some hand movements not being detected at all. In addition, the lack of gesture controls for the Modern UI in Window 8 meant that the Motion’s abilities across the system were rather limited.
Engadget concluded that the Leap Motion controller was “best suited for creative pursuits, not productivity”, and that users should “think of it as an entertainment expense, not a business one”.
MIT Technology Review also took their turn at evaluating the Motion’s abilities and said that their idea of what would be possible with the Motion didn’t match up to the final product. They advised that users should look more closely into it before making their purchase decision, as the shipping software and applications still didn’t make the most of the device’s potential.
TIME magazine took their unit for a whirl and even mentioned some similarities between the Motion’s bundled apps and Minority Report. They note that it doesn’t have a lot of use currently as an input device, but that it has more promise with future firmware and software updates. They said it’s about as revolutionary as the Tesla Model S. In the future, more computers may have a similar method of interaction.
Kinecting people to their computers
Its worth pointing out that the Leap Motion has a serious competitor that already can do the same things it can – Microsoft’s Kinect. Especially when compared to Kinect 2.0, the Leap seems almost ancient.
Kinect 2.0 can not only understand and interpret gestures with more detail thanks to the 1080p camera, it can also do things such as measure motion force and your intent to move, as well as monitor other aspects of your body like temperature, heart rate, and physical appearance.
There are also already projects using the older Kinect to navigate through the WIndows UI and do some pretty interesting things, including gesture controls, voice commands, facial recognition and even recognising some emotions.
Kinect 2.0 can even help interpret sign language. Microsoft may win in this war to bring people around to the idea of gesture-based controls, but the cheaper Leap may be the platform that people use to discover and eventually get on the bandwagon for a very different way to communicate with a computer.