Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

The Leap Motion: control Maya by waving at your screen

Autodesk’s Leap Motion plugin for Maya 2014 in action. The software enables users to use Leap Motion’s new Kinect-like touch-free controller for sculpting or digital puppeteering inside Maya.

The eagerly anticipated Leap Motion Controller shipped last month – and according to its developer, over one million apps have already been downloaded from its online store: among them, those for Maya and Painter.

The power of hand-waving
A $79.99 device that aims to do for general computing what the Kinect did for gaming, the Leap Motion Controller plugs into your USB port and enables you to control software by… well, waving your hands at the screen.

Early reviews – of which this piece on Ars Technica is fairly typical – suggest that the controller is a nice tech novelty, with the potential to be much more, but that the results are still frustratingly uneven.

Free apps for Maya and Painter fans
But if you’re a serial early adopter, the developer’s Airspace store features a range of games and apps designed to work with the controller, and to link it to existing software, including Maya 2014.

The latter enables users to link the controller to Maya via expressions, MEL or Python scripting, or via C++, with potential applications including puppeteering 3D characters, sculpting or even creating simple camera controls.

Autodesk has a set of six demo videos on the AREA, but feedback on the download page suggests you will still need a fair degree of technical savvy to do anything productive.

In contrast, the Painter Freestyle app, currently in beta, is a more beginner-friendly proposition, and provides a cut-down set of features from Painter itself, including 15 brushes and 6 paper textures.

Both apps are free, although you will need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or 8 to use them.

Visit the Leap Motion website

Visit the Leap Motion Airspace app store