Is This the Next Leap in Motion Technology?

For a peripheral that is somewhat overpriced, underutilized, and in general vastly inferior to the Nintendo Wii console it seemingly got most of its motivation from, the Xbox Kinect has made quite a splash in the motion based control field.

There are of course the Guiness Book of World Records worthy initial sales figures to back this up, but the real proof of this impact is evident in the creativity this device’s impressive technology has inspired in its users. See while game developers can’t seem to make a good Kinect game that isn’t a dance simulator or Wii sports rip off if their jobs depended on it, the Kinect users have managed to hack into the device to make the basic technology that runs it do some incredible things. These include the entertaining (light saber simulators), the sci-fi worthy (robot controller), and the practical yet cool advancements in basic human interface:

Motion controlled interface has been a dream of sorts for consumers, especially since it was popularized in the movie “Minority Report.” With devices like the Kinect and iPhone, we have gotten closer and closer to this goal, but have yet to fully realize it. Even the impressive demonstration in that video was marred by the fact that the movements needed to actually control the system had to be very blunt, and required full body commitment to make even the simplest of motion commands.

San Francisco based company Leap Motion thinks they might have the inevitable solution. Their device (called the Leap) is about the size of an iPod and works through a USB input your PC or Mac. It reads a space four cubic feet in size, and is supposed to be 200x more accurate than anything else on the market. This means accuracy to within 1/100th of a millimeter, which should allow for subtle finger movements (instead of whole hand and body motions) being able to produce the desired results.

The extraordinary video the company released seems to back that up.

We’ve been promised the moon with motion sensors before, but I have to say that given the advancements in the motion field over the past few years, I see no real reason that the Leap shouldn’t function in the way it claims to. My only real red flag in that video is the video game controller sections. I still feel that we are a ways off from total motion control in games without the use of any buttons, especially in titles designed with mouse/keyboard in mind. Of course in menu heavy titles like Real Time Strategy Games or RPG’s, I could see this device making formerly monotonous navigation somewhat enjoyable.

Even if it’s not yet perfect, at a modest retail price of $70 (pre-orders are being taken now), many consumers might give this device a shot and find their own ways to make use of it when it’s released early next year. After all, that’s the only explanation as to why the Kinect is doing so well.