Gadgets for humans

Leap Motion starts shipping its 3D gesture controller to pre-order customers ahead of retail launch


Following a two-month delayLeap Motion is today finally launching its incredibly innovative 3D gesture controller to the public.

The first devices are being shipped to pre-order customers ahead of a retail release on July 27. For those lucky enough to get their controller today – a speedy or marginally early delivery is always possible – the company’s Airspace digital marketplace is also launching with roughly 75 apps.

The potential of the Leap Motion Controller is almost unparalleled. The tiny piece of hardware is barely bigger than a lighter – it’s just three inches in length and 1.2 inches wide – but packs in three near-infrared LEDs and two CMOS image sensors to record and analyze the user’s hand movements.

The result is akin to the user interfaces found in popular sci-fi movies such as Minority Report and Iron Man 3. Any number of hand gestures, both subtle and broad, can be used to interact and control a normal piece of consumer hardware. This includes swiping up and down a Web page, drawing on-screen and using pinch-to-zoom to quickly navigate an overhead maps experience.

Leap Motion claims that the controller is 200 times more precise than Microsoft’s original Kinect peripheral, which was initially designed as a motion controller for the Xbox 360 but later became a popular choice with the Windows modding community.

The next version of Kinect, to be launched with the Xbox One and subsequently for PC users, is a huge improvement but will launch at least four months after the Leap Motion Controller – and with considerably more bulk. Leap Motion’s offering also supports Mac hardware however, which can’t be understated.

The controller will succeed based on its app selection, however. The hardware itself mimics the iPad, in that its potential needs to be realized by third-party developers – those who can integrate the gestures into existing or purpose-built software experiences. Seventy-five apps is a significant launch pad, but Leap Motion will need to expand the Airspace store further if its to continue to grow the controller’s userbase.

Pre-orders were originally set to ship on May 13, following a retail launch in Best Buy stores across the United States on May 19. The delay announced in April was a considerable set-back, but let’s hope it was for a good reason – this could be next big development in the way users interact with technology.

Image Credit: Leap Motion

Published July 22, 2013 — 12:00 UTC