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The Leap: out-Kinecting Kinect for Windows?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 | Posted by Jim Thacker

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Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows may be less than four months old, but already it has competition in the PC gaming and budget mocap market – from new start-up Leap Motion.

The developer has been building a buzz online over the past few days with the teaser video for its Kinect-alike gesture-control device, which it calls the Leap.

The iPod-sized unit connects to a PC via a USB port, creating a capture volume of eight cubic feet from which the computer may be controlled via mid-air hand gestures.

Accurate enough to write on the screen
Leap Motion claims the device is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market – in a none-too-subtle swipe at Microsoft, it points out that this isn’t “a game system that roughly maps your hand movements”.

The teaser is certainly impressive: the video shows a user writing on a portion of the screen less than a centimetre square, using a kind of virtual stylus.

Whether anyone will actually use the Leap like that remains to be seen: unless you can dispense with the keyboard entirely, it’s a moot point how much advantage it provides over a mouse.

That should work for gaming (kind of: it depends how much you like waving your hands in the air for long periods, rather than resting them on the desk), but we’re less certain about general computing.

Opportunities for budget hand capture?
But what is interesting is that the demo shows what looks to be a point cloud captured from a user’s hands – so clearly Leap Motion is already thinking in terms of the budget mocap market.

That won’t happen without third-party support, and Leap Motion is only now gearing up to ship dev kits.

But regardless of the software it can be used to drive on launch, the Leap is a very desirable object – a sleek, minimalist onyx lozenge – and, at just $69.99, it’s less than a third of the price of Kinect for Windows.

We reckon that’s cheap enough for a lot of people to take a chance on the Leap when it ships at the end of the year. Windows and Mac OS X support are planned from the off; Linux support is “on the agenda”.

Visit the Leap Motion website

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