You may have heard of it by now, this little 3-inch controller that, once plugged into your computer, allows you to control apps with the smallest of gestures. Think Minority Report, sans the gloves. It’s all very cutting-edge, which is why there was a great deal of chatter in the tech world when the Leap Motion Controller was launched in 2013.

Now it’s one year out and the latest news tidbit about Leap Motion is that the company has had to lay off ten percent of its employees. (This is mostly because the firm had overestimated the number of units they would sell during the all-important holiday season.) Like all new tech endeavours, Leap Motion is going through some growing pains, but this in no way detracts from the fact that Leap Motion technology is altogether impressive and provides a platform that’s versatile enough for millions of possible applications.

How it works

Like Microsoft’s Kinect, the Controller tracks your gestures using LEDs and cameras, but in a vastly more precise way – it tracks the movements of all 10 of your fingers and is accurate up to 1/100th of a millimeter. Just plug it into the USB port, place it in front of the computer and you’ll have 8 cubic feet of virtual, three-dimensional space that you can interact with. According to Leap Motion, it has “a super-wide 150° field of view and a Z-axis for depth” and tracks movements “at a rate of over 200 frames per second.” Its app store, Airspace, features a growing number of apps, many of which are free.

Tech specs

  • The Controller is 3″ long, 1.2″ wide and just 0.5″ thick.
  • It works with Windows 7 or 8 as well as Mac OS X Lion (10.7).
  • It connects by USB.

Where will it go from here?

HP has already embedded Leap Motion technology into some of its computers and the possibilities of Leap Motion technology are already being explored by several startups. The guys at MotionSavvy are using it for their real-time sign language translation product, for example; while Mirror Training has enabled robotic arms with the tech, making them particularly useful for bomb disposal and so on. For the most recent updates on these and other developments, head to http://mashable.com/2014/05/17/leap-motion-demo-day/ and http://www.leapaxlr8r.com/.

43 Comments
  1. The technology looks cool, but I don’t see the major use of it for casual Internet browsers. I bet someone has a use for this motion sensor, but for the most part I can’t see the major use of this. Could anyone tell of any important uses, other than “it’s cool”.

    • This might be great for those who are into 3D modeling but will be needing a accompanying software with it. David have posted a blog post about makeVR, and from what I see, this is would be do great with the said software ( although from what I see, they have controllers for their software, although theirs look like a joystick somehow).

  2. I’m hoping this one is better than most of the other motion sensors. If this ends up working, they could make a lot of money out of videogames that use this.

    • It would be really great if people would make videogames with this device as a main input. I can only imagine playing RPG with a motion sensor device.

  3. This seems like a novelty item that people would use but then get annoyed when it bugs out and everyone will go back to touch screen or mouse + keyboard. I can just imagine trying to use this when you have people walking around in the background, it will probably just mess up what you’re doing.

    It also seems that the person demonstrating the new technology is sitting to the side, if you were sitting in front if the screen, and maybe nodding your head to music, can that affect the the system which can cause the work you’re doing to mess up.

    I’m not too sure if this is appealing to casual customers because it doesn’t seem practical to me. A mouse and keyboard are the best and easiest things to use in my opinion.

  4. The technology is great, however from what I’ve understood, the software currently being used is very quirky and doesn’t respond to multiple actions. I definitely believe it needs a bit of an update or a rework. Otherwise, I believe it’s a wonderful action interface for people to use since it’s just gestures versus actual devices to control.

  5. Interesting. The comparison to the Microsoft Kinect is a useful one, but that’s what worries me. I’ve been testing Microsoft’s peripheral for a long time and I still haven’t found the supposed utility of it. If I’m playing a game, it’s much simpler for me to press a button on a controller and receive the desired input. Similarly, if I’m browsing my favorite websites, moving my hands in front of my screen isn’t going to be a preferable experience. I’m interested in seeing where this technology goes in the future, but as of now I’m cautious.

  6. I would say that poor marketing is one of the issues with this company. I have not seen any legitimate advertisements for this technology. How do people know its even available? You have to market the crap out of a product like this.

  7. very intersting… the technology looks and sounds great. But the question for me is, does it work and is it worth my time and money? I would hate to spend thousands of dollars for something like this that does work or I can’t use it for much of anything. I definitely wouldn’t be one of the first one’s to run out and pay this.

  8. Ah, here we go again with the “Motion control is the future” thing. In the end, there is always going to be flaws with these devices. Whether it is inaccurate to use or a pain in the butt to set up. I’d be curious to see how this actually performs in a working environment. I remember watching the Xbox Kinect presentation at some convention and thinking how awesome it was going to be. “Just like Minority Report”, I said. Then it hit the market and wow, was I disappointed.

  9. It seems pretty cool, but I’d consider it more of a gimmick than an actual useful product, sure it would be fun, and new to use, but I think the novelty would wear off rather quickly.

    Most motion sensors on the market tend to be slow and inconsistent with their detection, I wonder if this will be any different?

  10. Can you perhaps offer an example of real world usage of this thing. Where can you use it?

  11. This actually looks quite interesting. I think it would be awesome to be able to completely be without a mouse. I am sure it would take quite a bit of time before people get use to it. I am still getting used to being without a mouse on a touch screen.

  12. This seems like the kind of revolution in hardware that really needs an accompanying revolution in software. For that reason, I can see why they had to scale back their sales forecasts: it’s all well and good to develop cool hardware like this, but the company itself can’t develop all the cool ideas for software that are out there. It’ll be a slow start, but then I guess the same was the case when the mouse was first invented. It’ll grow on us in time, though. Looking forward to the future!

  13. I really have seen a ton of sensor devices and i wonder what really makes this one any different.There’s just to many versions of sensor tech,almost to the pint that it becomes cliche, which I’m sure sounds weird but true. Well at least in my eyes.

  14. Though it certainly is a very cool looking product, it currently has little real life use. A keyboard is still needed to write properly, and don’t even get me started on using this for any games, except some of the more casual ones. I personally think the technology is where the future is heading, and i can’t wait to see what this can evolve into, and to see how we are going to replace the mouse and keyboard.

  15. In my opinion it’s a cool tech that will not have practical application any time soon. The technology isn’t there yet to warrant fluid and painless experience. It’s gonna be rather frustrating to use, in my opinion.

  16. Cool! I can see a lot of potential to this. This would be a great deal of help for artists specially when it comes to painting. I do hope it functions well though, not like the others.

  17. Wow this one is really cool. But I don’t see any use for it as of now, I mean sure you can use it for games and stuff but as for real practical use, well I don’t see it. This looks more a gimmick rather than an actual tool for anything. But you can use it for schools though, it would be a great part of teaching things to kids.

  18. This is a successful technology using air gestures which became famous with the Nintendo Wii which uses the Wii remote using air gestures.

    Monitors are a little more harder to control using gestures as small pixels would encapsulate buttons like close, minimise etc and care must be taken in order to get it right to the pixel.

  19. This scares me. My friend was telling me about the point of transcendence and singularity and some guy by the name of Ray Kurzweil. I know that this is all going to happen [the point of singularity] and technology is happening so fast! But, I think this technology is making people lazier and dumber. I am all for new gadgets and toys but not to the point that it contributes to people not thinking .

  20. I pretty much believe the leap motion technology will be key in the new role of enhanced devices tailored at specific domains. The regular user isn’t yet ready to adopt non-physical keyboards and the next step is already here. Our tech field is certainly fast-paced.

    As to the physical device itself, it could use some design improvements in my opinion.

    Also, a wireless connection would be better-suited for this device if you ask me. The fact someone (or something!) can move the USB cable in the middle of a critical operation isn’t comforting. It would be better for it to use bluetooth or any other wireless tech. Motion-sensing devices aren’t known for being resistant to movement themselves while operating!

    When this technology is finally embedded in mobile devices we will see an advancement in the ways for ubiquitous device interaction. We should be looking forward to it. Devices such as the Celluon Magic Cube laser keyboard, projecting a working keyboard on surfaces would look like ancient tech when people uses leap motion for all their input needs.

  21. I dont think I like this. Wouldn’t your arm get tired? It doesnt seem like it’s any better than just using a mouse, except for maybe drawing.

  22. Sounds great in theory and can’t wait till it developers further.
    It reminds me of the Samsung Galaxy S4/S5 motion system that detects eye movements, but it can also notice the tilt in your head or a wave of your hand.

    That said, wasn’t the Kinect coming to the PC as well? I imagine it may could be stiff competition for Leap moving forward. Regardless, the consumer should win out.

  23. I’m waiting for the day when we just have the power of cloud computing in our homes and wave our hands around like Tony Stark. However until that day I think I will keep my hands where they belong, on the keyboard and mouse.

  24. I had heard about Leap Motion before I read this article, but I’m glad I found an article that broke down all of the aspects of Leap. I’m a little shocked that it isn’t selling that well. Though I am glad to hear the Hp is trying to get motion input into its computers. I can’t wait to see what the future holds

  25. Wow, never heard about controlling a PC through gestures. The 1/100th would be really more than enough in detecting the gestures. This thing will really change the way we work. It would be a great companion for Windows 8, in my view.

  26. I’ve heard a lot about this and I have been following Leap since this product was announced. But, after this was officially released, people were reporting various issues, especially on the software side, mostly related to the Touchless app on their motion app store. This kind of feedback and also the fact that this product isn’t easily available in my country made me reluctant to try this out.

    However, the technology is impressive and the accuracy is pretty high for the kind of price it is offered at. In my opinion, a little bit of fixing the software, totally involving the open-source community into this and giving users a bit of training can make this product a revolution.

  27. I like the idea of being able to control your tech like this but is it worth the cost? In my opinion, no. Things like this are mainly for show and a TV remote can do just as good of a job as waving your hands in the air can!

  28. Wow, I actually like that. It looks really cool. I bet a lot of people will think about making NSA comments haha. but I bet this technology consumes too much power as of now.

  29. Wow that’s cool but what use do you have for it? I mean sure you can use to use your computer like a mouse or something but what about like real practical use? Can you use it like a pen tablet or something like that or can it integrate with other softwares like Maya to make 3D modeling easier or something to that avail? But still it’s a great piece of tech and I guess it can be improved overtime.

  30. I remember watching a video on this in a class a couple years ago. It’s good to see that they finally pushed the production and made something out of it. Sure it’s not perfect for things such as web browsing, but it’s certainly amazing when you consider it’s use for other things such as training and mobile type games.

  31. This reminds me of when the Nintendo Wii first came out. Yes, it’s a cool family friendly feature, but like some of the other comments I really don’t see the longevity of this.

    I understand that all devices will be controlled this way in future, and fine. I will deal with it, but its not on my must-need list.

  32. This looks awesome. I would not mind using one of these. It look very fun to use. Also it look like it’s very useful.

  33. When you thought touch-screen was awesome, this comes out. Impressive, this is good technology for gaming, and like some people have mentioned, 3D modelling. Other than that, this might be useless for the typical computer user though.

  34. I was skeptical, but once I saw that video where you can actually play a game well, I am very much interested. By the flick of a hand you can cause the desired action in a game, so this should be the next best thing after touch screens. I create graphics and while the using a touch screen is easy, it will be more easier draw and without any friction.

  35. This is a great new way of supporting input in our devices. There are endless number of possibilities that could arise from this technology. One already mentioned use is modeling, as the precise use of actual body parts will allow for the creation of a much more accurate product, but gaming could also benefit from this new input. This is a way of creating a much more immersive experience for gamers.

  36. I honestly love these gesture based controllers for computers. It’s just one step closer to having a completely immersive experience with computers, and that’s pretty amazing for gaming. There’s also another product that’s coming out like this one, it’s called Nod. It’s a ring that goes around your finger, and people can use it to control a variety of devices, including mobile. It’s water proof up to a couple of feet, and I honestly think that it may be the best alternative to this kind of control once infrared depth sensing is improved.

  37. What a unique combination. The Leap Motion could forever change the writing style and the writing habits of people who use the technology. The spoken language from the voice activated computing and hand gestures for many other purposes, including some very intelligent activities. And, of course, for PC gaming experience.

    • This is just what I was waiting for! It sounds so wonderful, but it’s been two years since this was launched and I hadn’t even heard about this until now. This leads me to believe that they haven’t been successful at all! Which is sad, I hope I’m wrong, but by now you’d believe everyone would be talking about this new technology and it’d be more widespread. I hope they keep perfecting this technology, am tired of tiring my hands so much.

  38. This is one of those really cool, futuristic type deals that looks really awesome when presented.
    But does this really make anything easier?

    I personally wouldn’t prefer raising my arms up in front of the screen when I can do it all on my touchpad/mouse/keyboard. But then again… I’m lazy.

    I’m also thinking about the annoying but possibly hilarious stuff that could occur if you, let’s say, unintentionally started like 5 apps at once after rapping along in a song waving your arms around.

  39. It’s a very good concept and an added plus is that it’s using existing technology to apply itself. I don’t know how responsive it will be when you’re flailing around in the air while using your Mac or PC, but I guess kinect works, so why won’t this?

  40. This was launched back in 2013! How come I hadn’t hear about it until now? 🙁 My guess is that this hasn’t had a lot success, right? That is a shame, this sounds like a great gadget I’d definitely invest some money on… Ive always thought it’d be so great to control my computer using only gestures in the air with my hands… no need to touch anything! Controlling things with voice commands would be nice too.

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