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May 21, 2012 AT 8:36 am

Leap Motion Announces New Rival to the Kinect

Well, this is interesting. A startup called Leap Motion has announced a new gestural controller which they claim is more accurate than the Kinect, and sells at an even lower price point ($70!). From Edgadget:

It’s about the size of a pack of gum, and once connected to your computer via USB, it creates a four-cubic-foot virtual workspace. Within that area, it tracks all ten of your fingers simultaneously to within 1/100 of a millimeter — that level of accuracy allows for rudimentary gestures like pinch-to-zoom and more complex actions like manipulating 3D-rendered objects. Naturally, the company isn’t telling much about the black magic making it happen, but Leap Motion claims that its software can be embedded in almost anything with an onboard computer, from phones to refrigerators. Users can customize it to suit their needs with custom gestures and sensitivity settings, in addition to chaining multiple Leap devices together to create a larger workspace. Plus, Leap Motion has created an SDK for devs to create Leap-compatible applications and an app discovery platform to distribute them to others. That means the Leap can work in a variety of use cases, from simply navigating your desktop to gaming and computer-aided design. The best part? Leap brings you this next-gen UX for a mere $69.99, and a select few can pre-order them now, with the full roll-out coming this winter. Full details follow in the PR below, and you can see the Leap in action in the videos after the break.

It’s nice to see them leading with an SDK — the Kinect, which was marketed originally as a game controller, did not have an SDK at launch — but I haven’t been able to figure yet what (if any) restrictions there are for developers. Hopefully, the terms will be more free than the Microsoft SDK.

Anyway, it sounds like it might be fun to play around with. Leap Motion claims the device: “creates a 3D interaction space of 4 cubic feet to precisely interact with and control software on your laptop or desktop computer.” — that’s what it was designed for, but I wonder what else you could make it do? Hmmm…

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  1. I figured fore $70 I’d order one, wonder if I’ll be one of the “select few [who] can pre-order them now”. They had no issue taking my credit card number.

  2. This is really nice, it looks sounds very adaptable to applications and high precision allows for opportunities that weren’t previously possible. A Kinect or touch screen just won’t allow you to do some of these things.

    Now, someone on Hackaday commented that this might be a hoax, with 0.01 mm accuracy. What do people think about that? The company’s device is so small and it’s like a black box. Does it work with infrared, lasers, sound, etc? They haven’t said anything.

  3. “Now, someone on Hackaday commented that this might be a hoax”

    I strongly doubt it’s a hoax, though it may have some limitations which haven’t been documented yet. Though the same could be true for any gadget, really.

  4. It makes me awfully nervous that they don’t appear to have a single *genuine, unaltered photograph* of the thing. That and phrases like “200x more sensitive” and “~100x more accurate”. And the claim of 10-micron resolution over a 2ft x 2ft x 2ft cube. And the fact that it’s supposed to be a USB peripheral and yet none of the product images show a cable connected to it, or even anywhere to plug one in. And that they describe it initially as “the size of a flash drive” and then as “iPod sized”. And that they supposedly have a “limited number” available for the first shipment and yet you’re welcome to order five at a time.

    I’m not saying it’s a scam, but I suspect that the product doesn’t (yet) exist in the form they’re advertising. This feels a lot like an ambitious Kickstarter project minus Kickstarter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of their claims quietly revised as the real thing takes shape (assuming, of course, that it does).
    I’m not saying it’s a scam, but I suspect that the product doesn’t (yet) exist in the form they’re advertising. This feels a lot like an ambitious Kickstarter project minus Kickstarter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of their claims quietly revised as the real thing takes shape (assuming, of course, that it does).

  5. Oops, that was bizarre. Go ahead and read just the first instance of that last paragraph. 🙂

  6. The article is very light on the details of the device. Although we would like to think of it as a mini Kinect, in that it is self-contained, but unless they have the right hardware acceleration (hard to fit in $70 price point) I am guessing that the little box is either two cameras arranged as a stereo pair, or one camera plus a structured light emitter, or maybe a combination of the two. The actual image processing would be performed on the host Mac. If this is the case, someone could conceivably hack their own version (albeit limited) with two web cams and OpenCV libraries, and get at least the depth map. The gesture recognition would take more effort. Also, if it is the case that the processing is on the host Mac, we won’t be integrating this device in a tiny robot any time soon.

    The person credited with inventing the “patented” technology is David Holz. To get more details I searched the USPTO site for any patents or patent applications with his name. I could find nothing. Perhaps the “patents” refer to gesture recognition IP they may have licensed elsewhere.

    Not to knock this device though- If it is true, it will be revolutionary in how humans interact with computers.

  7. Leap Motion creates a 3D control interface that detects the movements of the hands and fingers with pinpoint accuracy for only $ 70.

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