The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

March 12, 2013

Leap jumps to capture next step in motion control

AUSTIN, Texas — In a bustling tent set up in a parking lot here at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival, people are pointing their hands and gesturing with chopsticks as they guide various actions on a dozen computer screens.

Some of the sharpest minds in technology have gathered in Austin, Texas, to ponder the ever-connected nature of the modern world. A big theme this year focuses on how to create more seamless interactions between people and technology, finding ways to control devices that go beyond mice, trackpads and touchscreens.

That’s where the Leap Motion a computer controller comes in. It’s the gadget’s first public appearance. On display are popular games such as the fruit-chopping “Fruit Ninja,” and a more challenging one involving a maze. One man paints a picture by moving his fingers a few inches from a computer screen.

Greg Dziem, who works in data management in Austin, is using the controller to play the maze game. “It’s pretty sensitive,” he says. “You have to go slow. You have to be calm, steady.”

The best-known motion controller to date has been Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect, which is used primarily for video games. People stand at least six feet from the device, which is usually mounted on or near a TV set. Cameras in the Kinect track users’ movements and transmit them to the computer. But while Kinect is meant for living rooms and dancing games, Leap Motion is designed for people to use while seated and moving their hands just a few inches from the screens of laptops and personal computers.

“The technology was born out of the deep frustration of interacting with computers,” says CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald. While computers are “vastly different” than they were 30 years ago, he says, the way people interact with them hasn’t really evolved.

Leap hopes to change that, allowing people to use natural hand movements to control games, complete office tasks, paint, create 3-D objects, and edit music and video. Leap’s creators don’t like to use the word “gesture” because that implies a set of pre-determined hand movements to control the screen. Instead, they like to think of their technology as more seamless than that.

Buckwald talks about the barrier that exists between computers and their users and says the best way to get rid of it is to harness “people’s natural ability to interact” with the machine.

“Every day we reach out and grab things,” he says. “It’s very natural, but very complicated. We want people to reach into the computer.”

Using Leap may take a little getting used to, if only because people who are accustomed to touchscreens may be tempted to poke at the monitor instead of sweeping and flicking their hands a few inches away from it.

In a demonstration, Leap’s vice president of product marketing, Michael Zagorsek, showed off a yet-to-be named photo application that lets people browse through the photos on their computer using Leap. In another app, users can strum on-screen strings to make music. A demo-only program designed to show Leap’s properties lets users mold a piece of virtual clay using their hands and a chopstick. There was no noticeable lag between the off-screen action and the on-screen movement.

The device itself is a bit longer and narrower than a matchbox. It works using three infrared LED lights and two cameras to track users’ hands. It plugs into a PC or a Mac and sits between the user and the keyboard.

The controllers will cost $80 and will be sold in Best Buy stores beginning on May 19. Leap will have an app store, called Airspace, with free and paid apps available in areas that range from gaming to 3-D modeling to travel to business and finance.

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Business US stocks close higher for third day in a row

    Investors drove stock prices to their highest level in a week Wednesday,

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • China’s growth slows to 7.4 percent in 1Q

    China’s economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy Chinese leaders who are trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses.

    April 16, 2014

  • A look at 3 minority business mentoring programs

    A look at minority business mentoring programs, called accelerators, in three metropolitan areas.

    April 16, 2014

  • Why high oil prices are actually good for airlines

    Airline executives frequently complain about fuel costs. But the truth is higher prices actually have been good for business.

    April 16, 2014

  • Business US stocks open higher; Yahoo soars in early trade

    U.S. stocks moved higher in early trading on Wednesday, extending their gains into a third day. Investors welcomed solid earnings from Yahoo as well as some encouraging news about China’s economy and U.S. factory production.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Detroit strikes second deal with its other retirees

    The city of Detroit reached tentative agreements to preserve pensions for retired police office and firefighters but cut monthly payments for other former employees, key deals that could accelerate the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, officials said Tuesday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Missouri court expands legal rights for injured workers

    The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned 30 years of precedent with a ruling that gives greater legal protections to injured workers who are fired from their jobs.

    April 15, 2014

  • Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

    Latinos and immigration activists are warning of political peril for President Barack Obama and Democrats in the fall election unless the president acts boldly and soon to curb deportations and allow more immigrants to remain legally in the U.S.

    April 15, 2014

  • Farmers off to slow start planting corn crop

    Spring planting across the nation’s Corn Belt is sputtering because the soil remains too soggy or cold for effective seeding.

    April 15, 2014

  • Schreiber Foods schedules Carthage plant expansion

    Plans to expand a Schreiber Foods plant to eventually add 160 new jobs have been endorsed by a Carthage committee working with the company. Andrew Tobish, director of combinations for Schreiber, which is based in Green Bay, Wis., confirmed the project, which he said would be complete by late spring or early summer in 2015.

    April 15, 2014

Poll

The Supreme Court may take up a challenge to an Ohio law that bars false statements about political candidates during a campaign. Do you think false accusations made in the heat of an election should be punished as a crime?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge