Many people have probably seen the movie Minority Report, where multiple scenes show John Anderton (Tom Cruise) analyzing crime scenes by controlling his futuristic computer using all kinds of gestures. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's a video of the scene:
From the moment I saw this movie, I waited for the moment I would be able to control my computer in a similar way. At the beginning of this year, Microsoft released Kinect for Windows, priced at 249 euros (+4.99 for shipping), which is kind of expensive for what it is.
A few months later, at the end of May, the Leap is announced by Leap Motion. Despite the fact it seems quite similar to Kinect, it is in fact quite different. The first difference is its size: the Leap is way smaller than Kinect, being roughly the size of a big USB stick. It also has a greater accuracy, with a precision up to a hundreth of a millimeter, and has a detection area of 8 cubic feet (0.227 meters), which is equivalent to a cube with an edge of 23.6 inches (60 centimeters). It is also possible to daisy chain multiple devices to extend the tracking area. Also note that the Leap is currently compatible with Mac OS X and Windows (Linux support is planned).
Let's not forget its price, which is €74.99 to which you need to add 16.99 shipping if you live outside the USA. That brings us to a total of 91.98 euros, VAT included. That's a little less than three times cheaper than Microsoft's Kinect. Here are some photos to give you an idea of its appearance:
Concerning what you can do with it, here's the presentation video published by Leap Motion:
We can notice there is no perceptible delay. That's because the developers managed to get the response time of the Leap below what the human brain is able to perceive. Concerning the technology used, it seems it is using infrared to track movement. Something useful to mention is that it connects through USB. It is indeed not wireless, unlike what the pictures suggest. However, Leap Motion plans to develop a wireless version later on. Note that you don't need to wear anything special to use the Leap. Leap Motion also announced that you will be able to define your own gestures.
The developers are also having talks with various manufacturers to integrate the Leap directly in their products. Imagine yourself in your car, controlling your music using gestures, or a surgeon controlling his medical imaging software without the need to take off his gloves...
They also mentioned that the Leap could technically be the size of a big coin, but that they prefer its actual size to avoid losing the device too easily. This means that it can be integrated in other devices pretty easily.
The Leap is planned for february 2013, but you can already pre-order one here. If you are a developer, you can also ask for a software development kit (SDK) here. To obtain your SDK, you must first prove to Leap Motion that you are motivated, creative and competent, which is normal since we're talking about receiving a device and an SDK in your mailbox for free.
Here's a longer video of Singularity Hub's test of the Leap. At the end of it, you can see Google Chrome in use, along with a program similar to Paint, which the tester seems to manipulate relatively easily.
What do you think about the Leap? Will you pre-order?
Update: Leap Motion announced that its device would probably be available in February 2013.
Update 2: a Facebook comment states it will be possible to define our own gestures.
Update 3 (July 4 2013): updated the price now that a final price is available.