Since the last decade, we have seen a lot of changes in how we use computers. Every year something new gets introduced to the market attracting people all over the world. It keeps on affecting how we use computers everyday. Based on what we have today, we imagine the future and the way we will interact with computers. A lot of that is from science fiction movies.

Leap Motion is one of the devices which claims that it will change the way we use computers, but what is Leap Motion???

Watch the video below.

I am an enthusiast Natural User Interface (NUI) Developer. I love doing a lot of projects developing different NUIs. I recently received the device (for free) from leap motion to get my hands dirty developing applications for it and I made some cool and simple applications with it. I want to share my experience with it.

The device is made to change the way we interact with computers (well, the maker does this claim). According to David Holz, the CTO of Leap Motion. This device is made to make gesture based everyday computing a reality. The makers of the device say that it is intended to replace the mouse, but is that really needed??? is the question to consider.

The device is basically a gesture recognition system. It works on the same principle, on which the kinect works, infrared 3D tracking. The device has 3 Infrared LEDs and 2 Infrared Sensors or Camera, which makes the tracking possible. The device is meant to be used with close interaction with devices like the desktop and laptops. The device is very accurate and fast as compared with other device, such as the kinect sensor.  The device has capability of tracking 2 hands and offers realtime control without any lag. The form factor of the device is very small and very nicely designed. It is of the size of a cigarette lighter. It has nice aluminium casing and a black glass above along with the round edges which gives it the iPhone like look. It connects to the computer via a USB cable.

The first thing you want to do with the device is play fruit ninja on it, so I made an application which masks the Cursor and  controlled the cursor with the finger, and the next thing I did was playing fruit ninja with  it. It is very precise and accurate. Games are the applications, most probably, people will imagine its use for, but the question is, what are the other things it can be used for? Can it really replace the mouse??? According to what I am experiencing, other applications include 3D modelling tools, Paint, photoshop, applications where lot of pointing, dragging and dropping is needed, but it is not as precise as the mouse is. It is fun to use it, but it is very difficult to place the hand stable in a suspended position which makes some things hard to operate with it. For example, dragging and dropping files into folders with small icons. It is pure fun to use where the interaction is like the touch screen of your smartphone. It is fun to use it for gestures like pinch to zoom, navigating the maps,etc.  Using a smartphone, we touch the screen and get its response, here, we are only pointing so it is sort of difficult to get where exactly the touch point in the space front of the screen will be.

The users will enjoy it for playing games, but for using it for all applications, it is not a reality till now and will take some iterations to win this game. The users can afford it very easily because it is decently priced at $70. Its usefulness is pretty much dependent on what kind of apps we see for it. It is a realistic dream because thousands of developers (including me) are working on developing apps for it and soon there will be a nice ecosystem where this device will stand out for people who really make meaning out of its use.

Whenever devices like this come out in the market the first thing people have in their minds is it resembles the interface which Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report. The researchers try their level best to achieve such interactions and as a result we get devices like the Leap and the Kinect. The questions is do we really want to use computers like that for everything??? Bill Buxton said in a talk that any interface is a Natural user interface if it has the right context of use. so using a keyboard with a text editor is a right interface so it makes it a Natural User Interface. For Leap to become a success, it has to find the right context and then everything which will come to it is glory. It is definitely a winner as compared with it’s competitors like the Kinect, Asus Xtion Pro, it has capabilities of turning Sci-fi into reality the only wait is for making the reality palpable.

In conclusion, it is definitely a new way of interaction with computers. It is fast, it is accurate, it’s fun, but still has a long way to go and replace the mouse. If it specifically targets the portable gaming market, it can be a huge success.