My long-awaited Leap Motion device arrived the other day and I couldn’t wait to get my, um, hands on it. The interesting thing about the Leap is that while you operate it with your hands, you don’t touch anything. It’s can accurately track your fingers and hands and map them to inputs on the computer. Instead of turning any display into a touchscreen, it can be touch less. Essentially, you are the interface now.
The early reviews of the device mostly say it’s not ready for prime time. They may be right, but only if you’re thinking of this as an input device. One of the reasons I don’t think of it as very good for input is that it’s too accurate. This thing is very precise and can track your movements down to a pixel.
I wouldn’t go as far to say the device isn’t ready. It works, and it works well. It’s not buggy. It doesn’t crash my machine. The one thing I would change is the cable. The industrial design of this thing is elegant, then you have this cheap unnecessarily long cable dangling off of it. It’s incongruous to the device itself.
What’s not ready is today’s software. Most of what we use is optimized for the device on which it runs. Desktop software using a mouse or trackpad. Mobile devices use fingers. All these input devices provide some form of resistance which enables more accurate movements and nudges.
One place the Leap could be compelling is situations where eyes-free tasks are needed. For example, in the car. When I’m driving, I can have one hand free, or at least move my fingers while they’re on the wheel. Whether you think the windshield should be used for a heads-up display is debatable. However, you could control the navigation or radio in your car without having to lean forward and over to touch it.