The Leap Motion releases today, promising to change the way we interact with the personal computer. It delivers on that promise, but change could mean for better or worse. On which side of the spectrum does the Leap land?
Perhaps oddly in this day and age, the Leap Motion is a cheap, potentially revolutionary computer and video game peripheral that wasn’t funded on Kickstarter. Essentially, it’s an inexpensive, easy-to-setup Kinect for the PC. It’s a small — 0.5 inches tall, 1.2 inches wide, 3 inches deep, and weighs 0.1 pounds (1.27×3.04×7.62 centimeters) — unobtrusive device that’s similar in shape and size to one of the rectangular iPod Nanos. With a sleek black-and-silver aesthetic, it looks like a first-party Apple peripheral for the MacBook Pro — it won’t interrupt the vibe of your sweet battle station. It plugs into your computer through a standard USB 3.0 connection, and its placement is only limited to the length of the USB cable. Setup is simple: Plug in the Leap, press “Next” a few times on the installer, make an account for the Airspace Store (the Leap’s app store), then either download or load some apps. Easy peasy. What is not easy peasy, unfortunately, is using the Leap.
In its current state, the Leap provided one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had with a PC peripheral.
The goal of the Leap, of course, is to allow you to just sit back in your chair, relax, and effortlessly wave a hand or poke a finger in the air to interact with your computer. It has not yet achieved that goal, mainly because of that “effortlessly” qualifier. Using the Leap is a chore.
The Leap creates a three-dimensional motion and gesture recognition zone around itself that measures in at eight cubic feet. Eight cubic feet sounds like a pretty large area in which to wave your hands, and considering both you and the Leap are sitting comfortably in each other’s vicinity, you would think that eight cubic feet would allow you to sit back, relax, and control your computer with the ease of a technopath. Unfortunately, the Leap seems to have a sweet spot of recognition much smaller than that eight cubic feet, and even more unfortunately, the sweet spot doesn’t ever seem to be in the same spot from app to app. To make that matter even more frustrating, you aren’t ever in the same spot. When you use your computer, you likely shift around in your chair, maybe lean your head in one hand while you use the mouse with another, sit up straight, slouch, and so on. Sneezing even puts your body in a slightly different place. While using the Leap, you constantly lose that sweet spot of being recognized, even if you’re completely aware that you have to remain still.
Next page: Leap apps in motion
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