For more than one year tech nerds the world over have been waiting to get their hands on the Leap Motion. A device that can turn any computer into more than just touch capable hardware, the Leap Motion is an exciting piece of new technology that can change the way we interact with our PCs in the future – providing that there is a strong app support in that future.
Straight away, the Leap Motion is an impressive device. Packed beautifully with a now typical high end paper design on the box, this aluminum wrapped beauty will impress you before you unwrap and let it marry with your USB port. Out of box the Leap features an amazing build quality, and a tough feel in the rubberized bottom side, aluminum edging and what seems to be a thick glass top. In its light three inch package [7.62 cm] I can’t see a reason one could break it, unless you take the Leap on the road and have a tendency to accidentally sit on things. Included in the package with the Leap Motion are two Micro USB cables, one for your laptop and another for the desktop. The difference? Length. With a silicon wrap on either cable, even this build quality impressed me as something more than expected. If the cable and device were entirely made of plastic, I think that the Leap could have still passed as an $80 device, but the extra step is very much appreciated.
More important than build quality and appearance, the Leap Motion is exceptional and works almost exactly as advertised in the right light. Designed as the motion controller for the next generation, the Leap Motion works with a 3D space to provide you more than just the touch screen, but an entire field of usable area. This usable space isn’t in any way shaky or glitched either, but if you’re working in a dark space you’ll need to pick up a small lamp to work with the two visual and two IR sensors built into the Leap. Front light preferred, this sensor is complemented perfectly by every day touch applications built for Windows, and can be expanded for some of it’s best work using Leap’s official “Airspace” application store.
The Leap Motion doesn’t work on touch, and it wasn’t designed to only work with my hands.
Though the Airspace App Store can only be used through your internet browser for viewing and purchases, the store is very clean and straight forward. Showing off the basic functionality of Leap, you can work the entire store using only your new sensor, and dig the rabbit hole deeper through paid or free content inside. The app library is fairly sparse, but Airspace can give you some strong titles to show of your new controller’s features quickly, such as the basic “Unlock” – allowing your specific hand size, shape, and posture to login your user ID on system startup. Sure, Unlock seems like a basic tool, but if it takes you more than two seconds to unlock your PC, you’ll be saving time with Leap Motion on day one. With a more serious look into the Leap Motion’s controls, Corel’s “Painter Freestyle” and Double Fine Productions’ “Dropchord” bring the purest of fun and control to your device, showcasing exactly why you want to pick Leap up as soon as possible. Painting happy trees and playing a fine round of bass-kicking innovation really showcases the device’s precision and potential.
Occasionally while working with Painter Freestyle I did feel as though the 3D sensor wasn’t as made for art as it is put off to be, but with a bit of play I realized one of it’s more outstanding advantages. The Leap Motion doesn’t work on touch, and it wasn’t designed to only work with my hands. Upon use of a pencil I had lying around, I found that the depth of Corel’s software can be put to better use WITHOUT my hands, but rather with tools in the 3D space. The hardware and software of the Leap Motion have been designed in such a way that not only your existence in the space, but also your direction in the space matter. Pointing to the left, the pencil that I picked up actually changed the direction that the spray paint spattered across the screen. Swiping left to right with the pencil facing the ceiling, I could make wider chalk lines than when pointing directly. This sort of feature showcases all of the strengths that the Leap Motion can provide; precision, direction and thinking differently about how the PC can be used.
…the average PC could easily be sold without a mouse within the next 5 years.
Though it does not exist now, when Chess comes to the Airspace Store you won’t be playing chess on a two dimensional chess board that pretends to operate in 3D. The next generation of PC chess will be played by moving your hand forward, grabbing the piece and positioning it just so. This sort of innovation is possible because of a change in the way we think about our computing. We don’t have the reserve our motion control innovations for Iron Man and Minority report any longer. If not for issues in the company’s logistics, the Leap Motion could have picked up a significantly stronger review, but this peripheral could not be more outstanding and I fully expect to spend hours whittling away my time drawing fluffy clouds, dropping chords, and playing all the touch games I already know and love on Windows. When the Leap Motion is combined with the already touch friendly system of Windows 8, the average PC could easily be sold without a mouse within the next 5 years. The Leap has made me optimistic about the future, and until then this is a great addition to your rig.
SHIPPING ISSUES: PRE-PREVIEW
Having pre-ordered the Leap Motion 3D motion controller 13 months ago, not having so much as a shipping confirmation a week after the confirmed ship date is disappointing, and many customers of the Leap Motion are feeling the effects of the start up’s first go on the market. With hundreds of thousands of orders currently shipping all over the world – a process which began well before the official launch date of July 22nd, Leap is awry with shipping errors. Given their consistent shipping interruptions, I have withdrawn my pre-order status from the official website, and we are expected to receive our Leap Motion unit on August 1st by way of Best Buy.
If you are considering purchasing the Leap Motion after reading this review, please save yourself some trouble and pick it up from the exclusive American retailer Best Buy if possible, as this will ultimately save you time and money. Leap’s official website will charge for shipping, as Best Buy does not.