Leap Motion showed off its Leap Motion Controller at SWSW this week, and the tiny little piece of hardware looks impressive.
The motion controller, also just called the Leap, is about half the size of an Altoid's tin, and boasts insane accuracy. The little box can track and register motion down to 0.01 mm, making the Leap one super-powered, compact Kinect-like device.
The Leap will be cheap too. The controller will be sold for $79.99 at retailers like Best Buy when it launches May 13. The device is also one of the first consumer products to use micro USB 3.0. When it first launches, users will still be able to use USB 2.0, but it will require the newer USB format when developers begin harnessing the Leap's power.
At SXSW, the Leap's booth showed off its abilities in a number of games that allowed users to mold clay, and also featured a Jenga-like game, reports The Verge.
But what else could the Leap Motion Controller be used for, other than tactile modeling and innovative new gameplay?
1. OS Navigation
The Leap Motion could be used as a great navigation tool within an OS. Browser window swiping could be achieved with a quick swipe over the box, clearing windows out of the way, swiping your hand over the Leap again to bring them back (similar to trackpad swipes, but in the air!). Opening windows, reorganizing files, while not the most fun part of using a computer, could be done fluidly, without even clicking on anything. Obviously, using the Leap will make you look and feel like you're solving future crime with that super futuristic computer interface in Minority Report. But having a motion controller alongside a keyboard and mouse as a third input control could make for a unique experience within an OS.
2. Gesture Passwords
What if the Leap was used as a password input. Similar to swipe gesture passwords on smart phones, this function could be awesome if translated for the motion controller. Instead of typing an input, just flash a quick hand gesture over the leap. If done well, with the Leap Motion Controller, you could have a secret handshake with your computer.
3. Robotics Applications
As we saw with the Microsoft Kinect a few years ago, motion controllers work great in robotics applications. And soon after that device's launch, we started to see the Kinect used for much more than trivial dancing games. Because the cameras in these devices are so fine tuned and naunced (the Leap even more than the Kinect), they work great as a sensor for robots. And at the low price it's being offered at, this new motion controller could again serve as inexpensive hardware for robotics research.
Could we use the Leap Motion Controller as a typing input? The controller could be used as some sort of wild new virtual keyboard, and this could mean a radical new way to type. The Leap could allow for some strange keyboard arrangements, especially 3 dimensional shapes. No longer would the keyboard have to be a flat, surface speckled with keys, but maybe something more wild and imaginative, like a virtual ball with different "buttons" placed in an ergonomic pattern.