Six years ago, Nintendo’s Wii brought to life the touch-free motion control shown off in 2002′s “Minority Report,” and four years after that, Microsoft took the fledgling technology to the next level with its Kinect peripheral. Yesterday, though, a San Francisco startup made both look positively primitive. Leap Motion, fresh off a successful opening round of funding, unveiled Sunday its Leap motion-control system, and get this: The company claims Leap, which enables users to manipulate their computers in hands-free fashion, is 200 times more sensitive than its competition.
Using a small USB input device along with sophisticated software, Leap creates a 4-square-foot three-dimensional interaction space within which users’ touch-free gestures are captured and translated with pinpoint accuracy – down to a hundredth of a millimeter, the company boasts.
According to CNET, which witnessed Leap in action, the technology is ideal for
- Navigating an operating system or browsing Web pages with the flick of a finger
- Finger-pinching to zoom in on maps
- Letting engineers interact with a 3D model of clay
- Precision drawing in either two- or three-dimensions
- Manipulating complex 3D data visualizations
- Playing games, including those that require very “fast-twitch” control
- Signing digital documents by writing in air
And unlike Microsoft, which closely guarded Kinect before eventually letting developers have their way with it, Leap Motion will make its technology widely available to developers off the bat.
Michael Buckwald, Leap Motion’s CEO, told CNET:
We want to create as vibrant a developer ecosystem as possible, and we’re reaching out to developers in all sorts of [fields].
We believe that ultimately, the sheer number of use cases for this technology are so great that the value can only be realized by making it open. So think what would have happened if the mouse had been initially been released as a closed technology. The impact would have been a tiny, tiny percentage of what the impact was because it was an open system that anyone could develop for.
We want there to be world-changing applications that fundamentally transform how people interact with their operating system or browse the Web…. The goal is to fundamentally transform how people interact with computers and to do so in the same way that the mouse did, which means that the transformation affects everyone, both from the most basic use case all the way up to the most advanced use cases you can imagine for computing technology.
And if developer interest is any indication, Leap’s off to a good start. Buckwald said the company has already received more than a thousand inquiries about its technology, and while it plans to work with just a few hundred of them for now, Leap Motion will soon send out as many as 20,000 free developer kits.
When Leap makes its public debut early next year, it should cost in the neighborhood of $70.