How Leap Motion is Disrupting Categories Beyond The PC
Just as art imitates life, interface design is defined by its hardware. Over the last three decades, flat interfaces like the mouse and touch screen have dominated computers and mobile platforms. The exponential rise of computing power means that now you can carry a supercomputer tied into the world’s knowledge in your pocket, but the tools have remained basically the same for 30 years.
Recently, however, motion-control technologies like the Leap Motion Controller have emerged to take human-computer interaction into the third dimension. The device is a small USB peripheral that can track your hands and fingers with sub-millimeter accuracy and near-zero latency. The Leap Motion Controller is an augmentation to your mouse and keyboard, allowing you to interact with your computer in more natural and intuitive ways.
The device launched in 2013 and has opened up a new range of possibilities for professionals and creatives in industries ranging from game development and robotics to music and medicine, moving far beyond apps designed solely for the PC.
Here are five ways that Leap Motion’s technology can drive innovation and advance new approaches to connect with the digital world:
1. Puts power into the hands of developers
Leap Motion’s developer community has utilized the device to control just about everything you can imagine: two-ton space rovers, flying drones, robotic arms, home lighting, medical imaging technologies and live musical performances, for example. These integrations are powered by Leap Motion’s API, which is currently available in six programming languages on a variety of platforms, with plans to expand.
With Leap Motion, the technology is only one piece of the equation. We want to foster a strong developer community, promote creative thinking, and drive new experiences on the platform. Our third-party developers have the power to determine the best ways to explore and manipulate the data that a Leap Motion Controller can capture, and dream up new ways to take advantage of it.
2. Makes The Mobile Web And Smart Devices More Interactive
We live in an ocean of data, and our mobile devices have become windows into rich worlds of content. But our ability to connect with the mobile web has been limited to voice controls and fingers on small screens.
We see a future where our motion-control technology is embedded into a smartphone or tablet, so that the space in front of the device becomes interactive. When combined with other input technology like accelerometers, cameras, and GPS, it puts even more power into your hands.
Our everyday lives will continue to change as the billions of devices networked through the Internet of Things mature. The only thing that limits these systems and devices is the interface to control them. Leap Motion and other motion-control technologies are opening up new worlds of what’s possible.
3. Brings wonder to live interactive experiences
When it comes to interactive experiences, art and retail have more in common than you might think. From a magic musical table and 3-D sound sculptures to designing your own Nike shoes, creative coders are already using the Leap Motion Controller to make these live experiences feel more engaging and fun.
When you take away visible interfaces and let people create huge changes from tiny actions, it feels like magic. Retailers can use motion-control technology to let customers explore their products in three dimensions, or easily change colors and experiment with customized add-ons with the flick of a wrist. They are facilitating a direct connection between people and objects in a way that hasn’t previously been done.
4. Upgrades the sterile operating room and beyond
In the operating room, surgeons often need to be able to quickly navigate medical images like X-rays and MRIs. But given the need to maintain a sterile environment, they’re faced with less than perfect options: talk support staff through the process instead of leaving the sterile zone to view the images firsthand or remove, scrub their hands and arms, view the images, and then re-sterilize. Either option can take a lot of time, but it’s necessary to prevent contaminating the operating room.
Or is it? Leap Motion’s technology is already being used on a trial basis around the world, allowing surgeons to interact with medical imaging displays without having to leave the operating room. Another team of technologists has been experimenting with controlling cardiac catheters via Leap Motion in the OR.
Beyond the hospital, touchless interaction could be used anywhere to avoid spreading common germs. Think about going to the ATM or post office, using touch screen kiosks at a shopping center, or even checking in for an appointment. There are endless possibilities for motion-control technology.
5. Changes the way we control our cars
Buttons, knobs, and switches are an amazing tactile interface — you know it because you feel it. With classic car radio interfaces, it’s easy to make adjustments without looking away from the road. However, with touchscreens becoming more popular in cars, we’re losing our ability to control those systems without looking.
Embedding Leap Motion technology in cars would make it possible for drivers to use onboard systems via simple gestures. For example, a wave of the hand could activate voice controls, play music, or start GPS directions. An interface powered by motion control could potentially limit distracted driving by keeping drivers’ eyes on the road.
As technology evolves, our interfaces need to change with it. We created the Leap Motion Controller so that people could interact with digital objects as they would in the real world. We envision a future in which the digital and physical worlds intersect more closely, interfaces continue to shrink and become more intuitive, and science fiction dreams become reality.
Michael Buckwald is the CEO of Leap Motion