By Alexandra Burlacu | May 21, 2012 04:32 PM EDT
Nintendo Wii pioneered hands-free motion control technology, and Microsoft's Kinect improved it significantly, but the technology has now taken an impressive leap forward with Leap Motion. Various industries from surgeries to architecture, gaming, design and others may be revolutionized.
San Francisco-based startup company Leap Motion has unveiled its extraordinary Leap 3D motion control system, which enables users to control their computers with a hundredth of a millimeter accuracy and touch-free gestures such as pinch-to-zoom.
The Leap 3D motion control system is a tiny USB input device about the size of a pack of gum, but with a sophisticated software platform. Most people have seen what Kinect can do by now, and the system has become very popular by allowing developers to create games and other software enabling people to use their bodies to control what's on their screens. The system proved great for sports games, dancing, fighting and other physical activities, but Kinect's ability to recognize movement is somewhat limited, as CNET points out.
200 Times More Sensitive
Leap, however, is 200 times more sensitive than anything else on the market, according to the company, and it can sense motion down to the slight twitch of a finger. The motion control system creates a four-cubic feet "three-dimensional interaction space", and is reportedly more precise and responsive than a mouse or a touch screen, and as reliable as a keyboard.
Leap Motion CTO David Holz made a demonstration to CNET, showing how the system can perform a range of functions such as navigating an OS or browsing the Web with a subtle finger movement; pinch-to-zoom on maps; enabling engineers to work with a 3D model of clay; manipulating complex 3D data visualizations; precision drawing in 2D or 3D; playing games; writing in the air to sign digital documents, and other such cool functions.
Open to Developers
Another notable aspect is that Leap Motion wants to release the technology into a diverse ecosystem that would support many third-party applications, rather than keeping it closed and trying to develop the apps itself.
"We want to create as vibrant a developer system as possible, and we're reaching out to developers in all sorts of fields," Leap Motion CEO Michael Buckwald told CNET. "We want there to be world-changing applications that fundamentally transform how people interact with their operating systems 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."
As opposed to Microsoft, which initially launched the Kinect as a closed system, Leap Motion chose from the start to involve developers. The company wants users who have purchased the Leap motion control system to be able to access an app store and buy a wide range of apps built for the device. "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," Buckwald added, as cited by CNET.
Ready, Set, Go!
Leap Motion has already received over 1,000 inquiries from developers interested in the project, and it expects that number to grow "exponentially" as more people hear about the technology. The company will be looking for a few hundred developers to start with, but will expand the program soon after by sending out 15,000 - 20,000 free developer kits. According to Buckwald, Leap Motion is immediately starting to take applicants for the program. "We're going to ask developers what kinds of things they envision building and from that, we're going to make decisions about the order on which we bring developers into the program," said Buckwald, as cited by CNET.
The Leap 3D motion control system will be available for just $69.99, and a select few can pre-order starting Monday, May 21, 2012, with shipments starting this winter. Software developer kits are available as well, enabling developers to create Leap-based programs.
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