Today is slowly becoming more and more about touch screen technology. First with smart phones, then tablets, now with Windows 8 computers are getting ready to step onto the market. However, a touch screen monitor costs upwards of $200 dollars. There is a cheaper option coming to you soon though!
The Leap is a small USB peripheral that senses the unique motions of your finger tips and enacts them on the screen. This means you have touch screen technology right on your finger tips without actually touching your screen. No cleaning the smudges off your computer screen and no spending $200+ dollars for the technology.
The Leap is not on the market until February 2013, but are currently accepting pre-orders. This technology will only cost you the affordable price of $70.
It is essentially the size of a little flash drive, all you have to do is plug in your USB adaptor and place in in front of your computer screen.
I imagine it will not have the ease of use that touch screens have, though. It sounds to me that there may be a little bit of programming on the users end. However, a lot of developers are working on things where you can just start up and have it ready to go. Also, I imagine once it launches there will be a variety of macros you can use to get your desired appearance.
I foresee the only downfall of this being that it will not have a user friendly hand motion editing interface. It would be really cool if it just captured what motion your hand was making during the desired effect and just saved it, but I doubt it would be that simple.
What Does It Do?
The Leap can do anything your fingers can. From navigating the Windows 8 navigation, to drawing in any 3D modelling software, to gaming! You name it, there are developers working on it right now.
The Leap uses over 200 mapped points on your fingers and you can control just about any thing with the movements of your hand. The above picture shows you just how much it recognizes your hands. Everything you see above it a point of recognition. It recognizes the difference between your thumbs and fingers and can even recognize a pencil. This makes the Leap the absolutely most advanced motion capture technology available to the general public.
If you think the XBox 360's Kinect was cool, but a bit clunky, you will probably love this. It makes every thing look so smooth.
Try as I might, I have not yet used The Leap, but their promo video below really says it all.
The Leap literally puts information at the tips of your fingers. They have sort of the unofficial tagline of being "as accurate and reliable as a mouse and keyboard and more sensitive than a touch screen."
You can edit the technology so that it will fit the unique gestures of your hand with macros. I asked the person that showed this to me if I could flip my computer the bird and have it shut off, he said you probably could with the appropriate macros.
This means you could reach into a of our solar system and turn it like you had our little bit of the universe right at your hands. It also means you can load up the latest Call of Duty and actually hold and fire your gun.
You can also link a few Leaps together and use them across a wide screen. This gives me the image of a bunch of chemists using hands free technology on a giant chalk board made out of a large computer screen.
It really makes me geek out a bit.
The Leap also brags of it's possible uses in the medical field. Making it so that a surgeon can flip through advanced medical guides during surgery without ever having to take off their gloves!
The idea for the Leap can from the idea of creating 3D models. The creators of the Leap Motion technology thought that you should be able to mold clay on a screen as you molded clay in real life. That is an idea I can really get on board with.
Personally, I will have one. This I imagine in what it seemed like when the mouse and keyboard were first created, computers even. Some invention that seemed a little weird, but became the biggest thing all over the world.
How Does It Work?
This is the big mystery. The developers of the Leap Motion technology have kept their secret just that--A secret. I can see way, I am sure there are more than a few big corporations that would love to just jack their idea right from beneath them.
A few speculators believe that the Leap works in similar ways to the Theremin, the instrument that uses the motion of ones hands to control the pitch and sound of the instrument. Theremin's use an electromagnetic field created by radio waves, people speculate that the Leap uses something similar.
I am sure we will find out the deep dark secret once this has been on the market for awhile.
If you are a developer, Leap Motion technology is giving away lots of free developer kits just to see what you can come up with. I would also like to see what people come up with, so developers, do not be shy!
For the people who are not developers, you can head on down to that link above and submit any cool ideas you have for people in the forums. There are really quite a few neat ones there already like massively multiplayer online roleplaying game controls and sign language dictation.
There is even a little idea of creating a virtual keyboard that looks very much like a real keyboard and you type on it like you would a real key board. That is perhaps the most science fiction thing I have heard all year!
I have not looked through all the threads, so have a good look and see and let me know if you find anything interesting.