The promise of Microsoft’s Kinect was never simply to allow us to play games sans peripherals, but that one day an entirely new peripheral-free language would arise between us and our machines (many writers might pause here to mention the film Minority Report, but we’re going to refrain). We’re not all the way there yet, but a San Francisco startup is making a sub-$100 attempt at throwing open the door. Leap Motion’s Leap 3D system will allow users to control their computers with hundredth-of-a-millimeter accuracy using touch-free gestural cues.
The system is built on a small USB input device and a lot of sophisticated software, which the company plans to begin retailing next year for $70. For the price, users will be able to manipulate their machines with the kinds of gestures that are becoming more and more ubiquitous thanks to the explosion in touchscreen technologies—things like pinch to zoom, swiping between screens, or scrolling with the flick of a finger. The difference is that the user touches nothing; Leap 3D creates a four-cubic-foot interaction space in front of any computer that is more responsive than either a touchscreen or a mouse (and offers increased capacity for control by adding a Z axis to the touchscreen’s X and Y axes).