Having played and tested Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect at length, I was excited to hear about LEAP Motion, Inc.’s new gesture control device, aptly named ‘LEAP Motion’.
Having seen the amazing demo video promising Minority Report-like gesture interaction at your fingertips (literally), we had to add it to our collection of gadgets at User Vision; to test its usability of course.
Leap arrived in a lovely small box. In essence it is a slick, small and snazzy 3 inch metal and glass gadget packed with two infrared (IR) cameras and three IR LED’s that all together enable tracking of motion within the 1 metre area around it.
The premise is that the device supports hand and finger motions as an input, like you would use a mouse, without the need for physical contact or touching.
At first, I went through the Orientation tutorial provided by Leap, where I learned a little bit about using it.
To my surprise, the ability of the device to recognise and track gestures is very high – I eagerly watched as my palm and each finger of my hand were mirrored on the screen in front of me.
Orientation – learning how to use Leap
After the initial calibration, you are taken to the pre-installed Airspace store, complete with gesture control games specifically designed to test out your new skills.
My initial positive impressions were retained – playing the Boom Ball game is relatively easy.
A mere point and forward movement of the finger in mid-air, and I’m already mastering the game while entertaining the rest of the User Vision team.
Moving on to the Touchless for Windows app, I started to become a bit edgy as the interactions began to get less intuitive and required higher gesture precision, not helping the situation were my increasingly slouchy arms. It certainly is not a natural pose to maintain.
The package also includes more complex games. After picking up the basics, it turns out there is quite a lot more to learn about this little device.
The precision of movements required is hard to achieve and the initial intuitiveness was starting to get muddled by new gestures for each of the apps.
Available gestures I discovered: make a fist, spread you fingers, point with one finger, spread your thumb to a side, slide up, down, swirl… to name a few.
Leap vs. Kinect
The interaction area of the Leap is pretty small (1 metre) compared to Kinect. It is easy to get outside of Leap’s boundaries, especially when you find yourself getting frustrated ‘mastering’ specific gestures.
The limited space is made abundantly clear when you start to exaggerate your movements, and the device experience starts going downhill.
In my experience, the Kinect has a quicker sense of orientation helped by the mirrored image of your hands/body on the screen in most applications plus the gesture area is much less restrictive (approx. 6m2).
After few hours with Leap
The initial learning curve with Leap Motion is pretty steep and you need quality time with it to become a ‘gesture master’. Possibly several hours are necessary to feel in control as opposed to constant trial and error you experience with more complex apps at the beginning of the process.
How would you use Leap Motion?
I’ve been pondering at the Leap’s value in everyday life. At the moment, my ideal scenario of using the Leap would be around the kitchen.
Imagine having hands covered in flour from baking and wanting to switch on the TV – with a swipe of your hand in the air, you could turn on the TV set and easily select between channels. Never again would there be flour covering remote or pages.
Of course, in this scenario, I am assuming Leap is running on all my screens which at the moment could be expensive, but I am staying optimistic and hope that technology like LEAP will be enabled in all screens in a close future.
This is something Samsung recently enabled in one of their flagship phones, Galaxy S4 .
Thinking wider, many discussions have currently been around using touch less technology in sterile settings, e.g. surgical theatre
For the money, it is worth buying and playing with, and in my opinion we better get used to it as gesture interaction is likely to keep growing – once it is properly developed it will stay with us for at least as long as the computer mouse (correct me if I am wrong in the next 45 or so years).
How would you want to use Leap Motion? Feel free to Tweet any interesting ideas @UserVision.