- 27 May 2012
- By John Howell
As technology develops, the humble computer keyboard and mouse appear to be under siege from alternative PC control methods trying to oust them from their positions as preeminent PC accessories. We've had the Apple touch based trackpad (the modestly named "magic trackpad"), the arrival of touchscreen PCs, which are slowly becoming the secondary input standard, and Microsoft's recent promise of a Kinect based gesture controlled PC (a version of their Xbox gesture based game controlling device that operates at shorter distances). A technology company called Tobii also recently teased us with an eye tracking application called Gaze that enables you to launch Windows applications just by looking at them.
Now another challenger created by Leap Motion has stepped into the ring and if the description and videos here are anything to go by, it may be the fastest to be adopted and most impressive challenger yet.
Leap Motion have created an optical system that tracks your fingers with infrared LEDs and cameras. According to their PR, it's more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard, and more sensitive than a touchscreen. You can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements. They claim their Leap technology is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market (such as Microsoft's Kinect game controller or Nintendo's Wii). It's also cheaper. You can preorder Leap now for US$69.99. There's broad OS support too. Leap works with the upcoming Windows 8, Apple's OSX and Linux OS support is planned.
About the size of a flash drive, Leap can distinguish your individual fingers and track your movements down to 1/100th of a millimeter.
It's an impressive series of claims, but can it live up to the hype? I was ready to doubt (especially as Apple's magic trackpad is now at the bottom of my draw, Kinetic doesn't cut it unless you're a gamer, and Tobii's Gaze appears to be missing in action). However, after watching the videos below my attitude changed rapidly. This could be a real alternative. The fictional holographic gesture based display screens featured in Spielberg's Minority Report and the Iron Man films appear to be only a heartbeat away.
I'll shut up now and let you watch the videos yourself. Let me know if it impresses you too. I just preordered one from Leap Motion's website. Leap will be released in December this year or January 2013.
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