The Leap Motion is a fairly inexpensive device that precisely tracks the positions of your fingers in front of your computer. The aim is to allow you to ditch the mouse and keyboard and instead use your hands and fingers to control all the action on your computer. Think of how cool it would be to manipulate your computer like Tom Cruise did in Minority Report or pretend that you are low-budget Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. It sounds cool, but after a week of using the Leap Motion, I can say that it is a work in progress.
The Leap Motion controller connects to your computer via one of the two different length USB 3.0 cables that come in the box (kudos for including two different size cables with the device). After connecting it to your computer, it will perform a firmware update on the device. Once it has been updated. you will need to download apps designed specifically to work with it from the device’s Airspace app store. The few apps that exist for it work well, but the overall selection is just too small at this time. While most of the apps are for both Windows and OS X, there are several that are exclusive to either Windows or OS X.
Unfortunately, based upon my usage, the Leap Motion is not precise enough to allow for easy navigation of the Windows 8 desktop or metro/modern UI environments. Hand control is clumsy and cumbersome. The imprecise nature of the device, not to mention arm fatigue, makes daily usability of the Leap Motion frustrating. While I thought that this would be a perfect match for the Windows 8 metro/modern UI, I quickly discovered how difficult it was to use finger movements to manipulate windows and other items on the screen that were never designed for that kind of interface. However, I do have to admit that it is cool to wave my hand over the Leap Motion controller to wake my display and to unlock my computer.
To be honesty, this is a device that is better suited as a toy, albeit an expensive toy, marketed for kids than a game-changing interface device at this point (my daughter loves Boom Ball, Cut the Rope and Dropcord). The potential is there, but the 1.0 version is not quite ready for those expecting to emulate what they saw in Minority Report. While the concept behind it might seem cool, the Leap Motion just isn’t as revolutionary as it could be…yet. Hopefully future updates will eventually improve the experience and usability of the device.