I pre-ordered my Leap Motion controller some months ago, and I got the device by mail two weeks ago, taking my #firstLeap. This is a short story of first impressions so far.
The Leap Motion controller is a Natural User Interface (NUI): it is touch without a touch screen – the controller senses motion (gestures) by means of two cameras and three infrared LEDs.
What makes the Leap different from other gesture controllers, like Microsoft’s Kinect, is amongst others its better precision; it can track 10 fingers separately. Furthermore, the Leap device sits on a desk, facing upwards, and scans the space above it. Kinect sits below or on top of the screen, and faces forward. Where the Kinect is a full-body scanner, Leap scans hands best.
This difference makes that the user context of Leap controller is different from Kinect; where a Kinect user can be a few meters away from both the screen and the Kinect controller, with Leap the user has to be behind a desking, probably sitting, close to the screen and the computer it is connected to. This makes Leap less practical for interacting with a tv, as you will need a very long cable for the Leap, or have the computer close to you as well. The Leap is often portrayed sitting right next to your mouse and keyboard. This is an honest use image – you should not expect this device to replace your mouse and keyboard.
Although the Leap feels quite precise – it ‘works’ well when you first try it with an app like Cut The Rope – it is not precise enough to interact well with the current interfaces of WIndows/Mac; icons and buttons are made for mouse clicks and are simply too small to reliably point-and-hit using the Leap. Its interesting that it apparently is very hard for a human (me, at least…) to move a finger forward in space while keeping it at the same height – when you do this, you will naturally also push downwards, which means that you miss the button, and get a bit frustrated. 🙂 This issue was also mentioned in Engadget’s review of Leap:
Early reviewers noted Leap as an “admirable distraction but not useful for truly productive usage” and to some it feels as though they “experienced a gimmick”. Both statements currently make some sense, the Leap works best with the games available in the AirSpace store. However, when you are not expecting this device to replace your mouse and keyboard, but to complement them, expectations should be more in line with current practice. For 80 dollars, the Leap is a great ‘gimmick’ that will have some very ‘productive’ uses beyond games, as specific software/interfaces are developed for it and existing ones add support for it (like Google Earth has done). Until then, I will enjoy Leap with games. Now, get this thing to work with the Raspberry Pi, please! 🙂
Some suggestions for improvement
Add computing power to the Leap device itself, so it can function ‘standalone’ – without a computer and cable, so users can use the Leap as input for any screen in their network (like a tv)
Add Bluetooth & WiFi support
Add support for Linux/Raspberry Pi/Android etc.