Touchless technology is changing how we interact with computers by allowing alternative ways to use existing applications and by providing programmers with the chance to develop new forms of software. Developed by Leap Motion, a San Francisco based technology company, the Leap Motion Controller is one such piece of touchless hardware, and appeals to those interested in exploring these new avenues of technological communication. The device can be purchased from http://www.leapmotion.com for eighty dollars, and as of July 28, is currently selling in Best Buy stores. Lately, the release of the Leap Motion Controller has garnered a large amount of media attention and has received generally mixed reviews. This innovation certainly presents us with new opportunities, but is there a market for this type of product?
The Leap Motion Controller is a small, sleek device that can be paired with a variety of interactive programs. Rick Broida, a journalist for Computerworld, describes the item as “attractive and surprisingly compact,” and with a height of 0.5 inches, width of 1.2 inches, and weight of 0.1 pounds, the controller appears to offer more than its unassuming size would indicate. The product sits below the computer monitor and utilizes near-infrared LEDS and CMOS image sensors to recognize the user’s gestures. After plugging the device into a USB port and installing the necessary software, the controller is ready to function. Users can access the program Airspace to launch applications and purchase additional products from the Airspace store. Some notable applications include Corel Painter Freestyle (a painting program), popular games such as Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja, Cyber Science (virtual dissection software), and Touchless, a program that enables mouse-free use for the general computer interface.
What is the actual demand for a product such as the Leap Motion Controller, and what is the overall viability of touchless technology in the marketplace? First, the device is relatively cheap and is easy to set up, making the product available and accessible to most categories of consumers. In addition, Leap Motion reviewers consistently comment that the controller performs particularly well in certain niche areas. Michael Steeber from 9 to 5 Mac contends that Leap Motion works well for “natural, interactive gameplay” and MIT Technology Review’s Rachel Metz posits that the technology can improve “computer-aided tasks, like drawing, modeling, and virtual dissections, as well as making it easier to surf the web.” Not only is there potential demand from consumers seeking computer assistance for specialized activities, but also average people can enjoy Leap Motion’s unique function as a gaming device. Overall, it appears that there exists a substantial potential position for touchless appliances in the marketplace.
Leap Motion, however, is not without its flaws. Although the controller worked well with games and other inherently interactive programs, many reviewers found it difficult to use the device for general computer activity, such as browsing the Internet. Ostensibly the controller is able to track the user’s gestures to 1/100th of a millimeter, but reviewers often felt frustrated when it failed to register simple commands. Another issue with the product is that continual use of the controller proves to be a tiring endeavor. Many complain of aches and soreness after holding their arms above the keyboard for an extended period of time.
Although Leap Motion has a few faults, it’s important to understand that the product is currently akin to a prototype and serves as an early example of the potential uses for touchless technology. Additionally, Leap Motion appears poised to enhance the marketplace as computer manufacturers, seeing as Hewlett-Packard plans to integrate this technology in their own products. Looking towards the future, touchless devices seem bound to permeate everyday lives and improve tasks that are unsuitable for the mouse and keyboard.