back to article Leap Motion Controller: Hands up for PC air gestures. That's the spirit

Can such a small, silver and black gadget deliver all it promises? Talk to the device’s creator, Leap Motion, and it’s clear that plenty is indeed being pledged. The tiny box - at 79 x 30 x 10mm, it’s barely bigger than a disposable lighter - is called the Controller and it will help “break down the barriers between humans and …


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  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    >Tactile feedback, and the way the inertia of physical peripherals helps keep your hand steady, count for more than you realise when you’re trying to be precise.

    Other online reviews of the Leap make much the same point as Mr Smith. Maybe Leap have missed a trick - rather than just software developers, perhaps they need hardware partners, in the same way that a Wii controller can be fitted into a dumb 'steering wheel' or 'fishing rod' accessory. Existing 'digital clay' systems use an expensive articulated arm to provide XYZ + vector user input, and haptic feedback.

    Inexpensive hardware accessories could make the Leap pretty handy... just add a glass sheet and pen to make it an ersatz digitiser, for example.

  2. Geoff Campbell

    Very cool.

    I've ordered one, just for the hell of it. I think that all the caveats are probably right, and it will turn out to be a bit of a solution looking for a problem, but I figured I couldn't miss the opportunity to get RSI in new and interesting parts of my arms...

    Who knows, there may be a killer app waiting just around the corner for this one, as with the smart watches?


    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: Very cool.

      In fact, I notice that mine is currently on its way out from Swansea on the last leg of the delivery journey.


  3. jai

    Mines on the courier truck waiting to be delivered.

    As you say, it's probably a gimmick and won't really get used, but I'm looking forward to spending the weekend finding out :)

    re: Minority Report? pah! i want to surf the net like in Johnny Mnemonic!!

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    As well as paid-for software, there are also some open-source efforts for the Leap such as Solidworks (3D CAD) integration. The Leap forums were interesting, but I haven't checked them in a while.

    I wonder if anyone is working on a sign-language > text application? : D

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      I wonder if anyone is working on a sign-language > text application? : D

      Heh, that was my first thought on reading the article, though being a cynic, I figured that it'd just do ASL (American Sign Language).

      The the second app that I thought about was virtual puppeteering. To be honest, though, that was also the first use I could think of for the gyroscope/accelerometer in all modern smartphones. So far, though, nobody has filled that important niche. Disappointing.

      I guess I'll just go back home to watch 'Being John Malkovich' again (or maybe Team America: World Police) -->

  5. david willis

    On the Truck

    Much like everybody else, mine is on the truck waiting for delivery today.

    I think most of the review comments will turn out to be fair, and to be fair if I passed you a copy of RDP for ipad and asked you to use it to access your computer desktop and work soley from the ipad you would soon get board.

    Simple fact the UI of both OS-X & Win 7 is designed for keyboard and mouse. Use them with a touch/proximity and they just show how limited your basic UI is.

    Question - whats it like with WIN8 ? - does it even work?

    Comments about touch surfaces are useful to most. I already have the apple magic mouse and use the surface regularly for multi gesture control. Fact the surface isn't big enough. Next fact, I'm thinking from a surgeons perspective, when with gloves on and blood on hands he/she wants to see a bit more detail on the theatre computer screen with regards a referance x-ray/CT/ultrasound will leap help? At the moment he/she does it using a touch screen, it works!, the screen is also getting progressivly destroyed by the cleaning chemicals used. Would leap resolve the latter problem without compromising the level of control?

    I'm not 100% sure leap is the answer, but its certainly a relatively cheap starting point.

    1. david willis

      Re: Delivered

      Ok its landed, installed and working.

      Opinions - unfortunately completely agree with the reviewer - its a gimmick.

      Issues -

      1. it don't like daylight - so curtains closed to use it.

      2. you want it to work like a mouse / touch less screen? - ahh theres an app for that - and yup it doesn't come with that function out of the box - I'll tell you later about the app, but the reviews are not good!

      3. 241Mb software install on a mac - and all you get is some snoop ware and a calibration/test software. WTF! (at least you can switch off the snoop ware ?)

      4. Every help screen is a video - which it downloaded - very pretty I'm sure - not helpful if your internet connection isn't great

      5. It does not like usb hubs

      6. VMware fusion kills it stone dead.

      So very shiny.. form over function.. not impressed.

      1. david willis

        Re: Final Update

        Ok fusion doesn kill leap, it just steals it on start.

        Actually device will work under fusion, but requires re-installation of all drivers/software on the cliant VM.

        The windows drivers seem a little better than the mac ones..

        Touchless screen - mac - needs development - as said by all the reviewers. with a mouse you don't think where it is when controlling the screen, what you are looking for is the cursor on the screen. With leap you are trying to do touch, but you essentially need to think "I'm not touching, its like a mouse" forget where my hands are, just watch the cursor (interesting arm motions, possible quite good from an excersise point of view) - this is kind of counter intuitive.

        Touchless Screen - Win 7 - needs even more development.

        Final thoughts - quite a way to go. fully understand why they delayed release. need to re-work the touchless screen software.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It may have its uses. But you feel that next generation interfaces are really at the "crackpot" stage at the moment.

    Before the mouse took hold we had to endure lightpens and koala pads as "new" input methods. Neither stood the test of time. Why? people when you sit at a desk you want to rest your arms on the desk. Nobody writes a letter with their arms lifted a foot off the table, so why should any new input device require this?

    1. StooMonster

      In the 80s you would have had to wrestle a Koala Pad out of my cold dead hands, for creating graphics it was by far the best (cost effective) tool and second to none.

      Isn't the modern equivalent the Walcom tablet? So it is an interface that stood the test of time after all, at least with graphic designers and other creatives.

  7. Martin Kirk

    Waiting for mine to arrive, too. It is a speculative purchase. I do not have over-high expectations of its usefulness, but it should be interesting to experiment with, at least for a awhile.

  8. V 3

    Google Earth

    At this stage I agree with the review - it is a gimmick.

    But Google Earth works with it - although it takes a while to get any sort of control - and the results are interesting enough for me to want to persevere. It may well find a niche with certain software. It does, certainly require a certain amount of training to use well.

  9. bownie

    Moving target

    I was on the developer programme for the Leap since February and was very impressed with the hardware and the attitude of the company to embrace developers. The points made in the article though are valid - it is difficult and frustrating and also tiring to use. The API that Leap provided to developers was good but kept on changing in rather large chunks too close to the shipping time for me to consider actually putting together an app. Nice tech and I think it will find a niche - in fact I think there is room for it in the 'wearable' computers space providing an interface where there isn't one currently.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    "interact with Mac OS X and Windows"

    Feeling left out. >---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->>

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: "interact with Mac OS X and Windows"

      Check the LeapMotion Linux forums, Thad!

      "Hey guys, I'm really sorry about . I've asked our guys to put our link back up [ to the beta Linux drivers] on the developer portal as soon as possible. It should include the latest software daemon package as well as a SDK. Unfortunately; there is no Airspace support for Linux at this time."

      -DavidH Co-Founder & CTO

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Check the LeapMotion Linux forums"

        Oh, right, thanks. And now I come to think of it, I do remember good intentions being expressed by them before. I guess I wasn't in the mood to let that spoil a good troll <Blush>

        Reading that thread, it doesn't look like it does much as yet, but admitting Linux exists is a good start.

        A good word, in passing, for Roccat. Fed up with the smell of decaying dead mice, I decided to spend rather more than usual on one, and plumped for Roccat because ...Linux drivers for the stuff that is over and above the basics. Whilst they do not provide them, they do support the guy that does.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "interact with Mac OS X and Windows"

      Don't let being a minority get you down, 200x is the year of the Linux desktop don't you know?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 200x?

        In that case, I must have missed it.

  11. Anonymous Coward 15
    Paris Hilton

    I pre-ordered one of these

    Tracking says it was delivered this morning :)

    I wonder if there will be any apps to take advantage of certain one-handed gestures?

  12. John H Woods Silver badge

    If i'd invented this ...

    ... I'd be focussing on all those areas where being restricted to 2D can be problematic - modelling tools such as Blender and some of the game level creation kits (like Bethesda's GECK).

    1. Matt_payne666

      Re: If i'd invented this ...

      you don't need to be restricted to 2D control for those applications... have a look at the 3DConnextion Spacemouse - you use it in the opposite hand to your mouse for manipulating the object onscreen in 3 axis - Ive been using one since my SGI Octane and its awesome! and a LOT cheaper now!!!

  13. Christian Berger

    Just like the lightpen

    It has one problem, you need to keep your arm stretched out in front of you for a long time. That's extremely unergonomic.

    Additionally the interface doesn't appear to be very expressive. How much information can you get across per time. It just seems to much less efficient than a simple keyboard.

  14. Dig

    gmail motion at last

    Finally we can all benefit from the Google Gmail enhancements

  15. Jolyon Smith

    Mice don't move in "straight lines"

    A mouse is controlled by a hand (typically) so all the same observations about movement of floaty hands apply - when in motion - but importantly stays stock still unless deliberately acted upon (where-as a floaty hand requires arguably greater effort - certainly concentration - to remain still, inverting the principle and subverting the ergonomics of interaction).

    Drawing a straight line with a mouse is actually very difficult - much easier with a pen/stylus device in fact.

    What *is* true of a mouse however (or pen/stylus+tablet combo) is that the device is limited to 2 dimensions of movement.

    Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Your screen is 2D so having a 2D controller is obvious to the point that it makes you wonder what all these 3D spatial controller doohicky designers are even thinking of (when it comes to desktop navigation replacements).

    Which is why whenever someone claims to have come up with a spatial recognition/tracking device that will replace the mouse, I don't even have to try it to know it simply aint gonna work.

  16. streaky


    Mine comes tomorrow like rest of the country.

    Lets be honest, you're not seriously going to be using one of these *instead* of a mouse, or a keyboard, you're going to be using it in concert with one.

    Say you're a 3d artist. You're going to want to use your left hand to move whatever the object is or the view port and do some gestures and use your mouse to actually do the work so to speak. If it's photoshop you're working with you're gonna want gestures to change tools, handle zoom and stuff like than and save the fine detail for the mouse or pen. Same goes for gaming and whatever else you can think of.

    It's early days yet, both users and developers aren't going to know at this point what to do with it, especially with Leap being so blasée‎ about release dates (some of us wanted the thing early so we could be inspired to write some software for it and didn't want the laggy alpha units to play with but apparently Leap wanted time to get software out which I - and many others - informed them via twitter and other media in no uncertain terms was a dumb idea).

    The important questions right now are a) is it accurate and b) is it as described - ignoring all the what comes next question. Right now we're at the point we should have been at back in May.

    As for the tiredness stuff - some of use who sit at our desks all day could use a little exercise - but I'm thinking elbow on desk?

    1. Jolyon Smith

      The "early days" myth...

      It constantly amazes me that people have such short memories (or for those for whom memory genuinely doesn't extend so far, an inability to research).

      It is not "early days" for this sort of technology. Far from it. It has been knocking around in one form or another for 30+ years. That's plenty of time for people to come up with applications - in terms of what the technology can be usefully applied to, and the software to achieve it - while the technology itself caught up.

      We have already reached the point where the technology "evolution" is reduced to ever smaller and more convenient iterations of the same thing. Actual progress really isn't occuring any more. But every time a smaller, cheaper or just slightly different implementation of the tech is announced, the terminally amnesiac or plain uninformed declare that "the technology is finally here", it turns out that it still sucks and a new generation of people are born who just think "it's early days" and that the technology just needs to mature.

      The tech in question is recognising and tracking in 3D space. Every "new" technology that claims to do this better than ever before in reality is just doing it differently than before. Accuracy reached levels where applications could do something useful with the inputs a LONG time ago, and yet it is issues with precision and accuracy that constantly plague those applications.

      This leads the terminally optimistic to believe that the technology still needs to be and can be improved, when in fact the problem lies not in the accuracy with which the input device - the human limb - can be tracked, but in the accuracy with which the operator can control their own device. i.e. their arm.

  17. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Quick question

    Can you point this thing sideways to turn %generic-piece-of-desk% with %any-old-pen% into a 2D tablet?

    If not, then the Leap Motion guys had better get onto doing that because that, quite genuinely, is the killer app for the underlying technology.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick question

      I've just tried it and, using the Windows pointer app, it looks like it can't. It does detect above, in front and behind the device, so perhaps it's just getting confused by the plane of the desk. I imagine it could have an application written which just ignores everything on the plane of the desk, so I can't see why it wouldn't work. Sounds quite an attractive idea.

  18. Bob H


    On my desk I have a small Wacom tablet, a mouse and a trackball, they all play their roles well.

    So today the Fedex man arrived with my Leap Motion controller saying "what is it? we've got thousands of them!", I quickly ran the install and then plugged it in. After plugging it in a few times more it worked... I think?

    It complained about the lighting, damn you summer's (very indirect) sunlight and LED strip lighting. I tried the diagnostics view to see my hand, it kind of worked, but it was Google Earth that freaked me out. I had to old my hand perfectly still otherwise it went f*king nuts, after several minutes I finally got myself to England but by that point I think I was motion sick. I had to give it up. Cut The Rope? No, more like cut the throat.

    I unplugged it after less than an hour and now I don't quite know what to do... Looks like some other people have had the same idea on eBay... and it says something that I checked.

  19. Gordon Johnstone

    Got mine, agree with review

    I had to install Windows 7 in advance of its arrival as its not XP or Linux compatible. Installed it and found it smooth in places, jerky in other. But once I realised it uses light to track and my computer has many different light sources around it I realised it was getting confused. Moved the computer into a single light source area and it worked quite well. Then thought "what the hell am I doing". I can't think of any other peripheral I would have done this much to use. Not as useful as I thought it would be when I ordered it at the start of last year. Hopefully some of the Raspberry pi hackers will make something useful out of it

  20. prg

    Does it recognise being punched in the monitor and getting the finger? It could put up a big sad face or something... seg fault help guide...

  21. Petrossa

    Installed easily, but due to addled brain had the thing upside down for a while which unsurprisingly made it to fail to see my hand. Having sorted that out and fooled around i tried the touch interface for windows. It works surprisingly well, but indeed as written selecting a target is easier said then done. Sofar i managed to make my browsers menu's double space and have yet to discover how to undo that.

    Had a go at google earth but that resulted in viewpoint going to -1985 meters and a rapidly spinning image as soon as you entered the gadgets view. Not really what i expected.

    Now off the write some apps myself.

  22. goldcd

    Mine arrived yesterday

    I ordered the thing on impulse driven by:

    a) That looks pretty damn cool

    b) It's not really that much

    Spent a happy couple of hours playing with it and I'm quite impressed with it. Does what it says on the tin and it tracks my fingers - basically what the kinect promised on a macro scale and quite spectacularly failed to deliver.

    I'm a bit torn when I read the reviews - I pretty much agree with most of what they say, but as far as I'm concerned they're somewhat missing the point. It's not currently a productive tool and any review judging it on this will end in criticism - it's a toy.

    What I'm impressed by is not the software, it's the hardware - *it* does what it's supposed to perfectly. We're now just waiting for the software to use it properly.

    Quite a lot of the criticism seems to be around that the UI varies by app - that's fair if you were say looking for a mouse replacement - but surely nobody sane was. I'm just interested to see how different designers can leverage the excellent hardware - and more than happy to indulge all manner of failed attempts on the way.

    The foundations look pretty damn good and I'm looking forward to all the frivolous edifices that can be built on top.

  23. peterchon

    not entirely happy

    bought this against my best judgement and I'm regretting it.

    I'm a javascript developer and thought this would be a great opportunity to et a jump start on something unique, but alas - it is a gimmick.

    I'm currently working on an app that teaches origami by virtually folding digital paper, but it seems the device is waaay to sensitive. I dunno, we'll see how it goes.

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