Leap Motion brings Minority Report interface to life
We've had air kissing, air hugs, and air guitar. Now, Leap Motion is bringing us air mice. The company is planning a product that lets you control your computer by gesturing in thin air, without a mouse, presumably to the joy of circus mimes everywhere.
We've already seen this kind of thing in science fiction. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise swiped and groped his way through a complex computer interface using nothing more than his hands. He grabbed files and pictures, and dragged them around a large, transparent display. Now, you'll be able to use the same basic principles to play Angry Birds, paint a picture, or edit a photo.
Leap Motion's device sits on your desk and watches what you're doing - to a resultion of a hundredth of a millimeter. It recognises all of your fingertips, or your pen or chopsticks, and does it in real time, eliminating any lag. The demo video shows users performing all kinds of tasks, including playing a first-person shooter using their hand as a trigger finger.
But Leap Motion has competition, in the form of Microsoft's Kinect. This device, launched in 2010, recognises faces, movements, and voice. It took off as a product for the family room, but it also gained significant interest from geeks who reprogrammed it to do amazing things. Microsoft already has a Windows version, and has announced that it will make hardware available specifically for PCs with a 'near mode' so that your PC will recognise your facial expressions and gestures.
Leap Motion has no competition on the Mac, however (which it supports). There is no official Kinect support for OSX. Apple is normally the first with any new intuitive interface, but it has fallen behind a bit lately. Yes, it bought us the capacitive touch interface on the iPhone and iPad, but now ultrabook manufacturers are already talking about touch-screen interfaces for laptop - format devices - many of which will convert to tablets. HP has been selling touch-screen desktop machines for years now, but you can't buy a touchscreen Air, MacBook Pro or iMac from Apple.
The question is, will Apple step up and either buy a company like Leap Motion, or develop a similar technology? One possible development could be a Kinect/Leap-like gesture interface for the much-rumoured Apple TV. From there, it would be easy to see it migrating to company's desktop and laptop platforms.
In the meantime, once you move beyond the sexy factor, there are still some clear advantages to a 3D gensture interface. It could make working quicker and more intuitive, especially with graphics, or a complex software application with lots of controls. Engineers at Leap Motion have demonstrated navigating around Google Earth using one hand to zoom, spin, and tilt. That's difficult to do effectively with a trackpad or mouse.
How would you use a 3D Minority Report interface?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets