August 2013: Remember Tom Cruise controlling a bunch of computer screens by waving his hands around
in the movie Minority Report? The idea came from a group of tech futurists who thought that gesture-based interfaces would be cutting edge in 2054.
Guess what? The technology is 41 years early! Here’s how an $80, 3-inch device lets you leap into the world of no-touch computer control:
The Leap Motion Controller plugs into your computer’s USB port and tracks the movements of your hands — and all ten of your froggy fingers — by using two tiny cameras and three infrared lights. Just point, wave, swish, reach, grab and otherwise contort your digits above the tiny device and your computer does what you “tell” it to do.
Watch the short videos for Google Earth and you’ll get the idea.
For now, Leap Motion only works with the 75 apps found on Airspace Store. These include some Productivity & Utilities category apps, like Airpoint (Windows/Mac, $2.99) for controlling PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, Unlock (Windows, free) that recognizes your hand instead of a password to unlock your PC. Games is by far the most robust of the seven current app categories (46 apps), which has led some to call Leap Motion a toy. Check out the Education app called Frog Dissection (Windows/Mac, $3.99) to take apart a virtual frog using gestures and not a scalpel (whew!). Most apps are either free or under $5.
While reviewers have their criticisms of the brand new technology (see Engadget and Computerworld), two computer manufacturers have leapt onboard. HP and Asus are integrating Leap Motion Controller technology into some of their computers so you don’t have to buy a separate device. Could it be that our 30-year-old mouse technology will soon seem oh-so-20th century?