Tiny Device, Huge Potential: How Leap Motion Will Change Computing

  • July 25, 2013
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What if you could control every aspect of your computer–from typing to 3D modeling programs–just with a wave of your hand? With the recently launchedLeap Motion controller, what was once fantasy has become a gesture-controlled reality.

In past Life Labs blogs, we’ve talked about the growing power of gesture-control for computer users. However, Leap Motion seems to be a cut above the rest in terms of performance and price. The Leap Motion Controller was originally conceived out of frustration. The device’s founders were annoyed at how much slower 3D modeling was while using a mouse and keyboard as opposed to their bare hands.  The need for gesture-control was apparent, and Leap Motion has executed exceptionally well. Incredibly, the Leap Motion controller sees your hands in three dimensions and can detect finger movementss to a spatial precision of 0.01 millimeters. This level of accuracy translates to a large range of possibilities for the device. Be sure to check out the video below for a look at what Leap Motion can do:


Leap Motion has capitalized upon the promise of their device by creating their own app store called Airspace. The store is full of apps that allow you to use Leap Motion to do pretty much anything. From frog dissection to playing air guitar to exploring the galaxy, the world is at the tips of your fingers. Most apps are priced similarly to apps in the iTunes store, so you can stock up on whatever apps fit your needs.

On the top half of the image, there is a white hand holding a small silver rectangular item; the Leap Motion Controller. Under that, there are labels which indicate where the sensors are (shown as green lights). To the right of the labels, there is a hand in a pinching motion in front of a computer monitor.The Leap Motion Controller is three inches long and weighs just a few ounces.

For those with disabilities that affect fine motor control, the Leap Motion controller could make a huge difference in how they interact with their computer. Cerebral Palsy may make it difficult to navigate a keyboard’s small keys. Apps for Leap Motion allow the user to move their hands in space to type.  This is a fantastic way to increase independence and make computers more accessible. The possibility for therapeutic use is there as well. We imagine an app that demonstrates physical therapy for the hands, with the user being asked to follow along with their own hand movements. Progress could then be sent along to a doctor, who monitors the patient’s progress and suggests more exercises . After finishing physical therapy, the user could then jump into a game or begin playing the piano–all without touching anything.

Leap Motion is a small device that plugs into any computer’s USB port. With an asking price of just $79.99, we expect this technology to go on to dramatically change the way we interact with computers. Aside from being cool, it is a fantastic way for people with motor disabilities to have full access to their computers. As Leap Motion puts it, the device provides “A little bit of magic. A lot of freedom.”


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