"A trip to any big electronics store this fall will tell you that computer makers from Samsung to Microsoft think laptop and desktop computers need touch screens. But that notion could seem outdated by early next year—thanks to the launch of a matchbox-sized device that adds intuitive gesture control to any computer. The technology, which is also being adapted for mobile devices, could even leave the beloved pocket touch screen looking outmoded.
Leap Motion has racked up millions of views with a demo video of its gesture-control technology and is taking orders for the $70 device, due to ship in early 2013. A demo of the technology at the startup’s offices last week showed how mid-air swipes, pokes, and grabs could control 3-D environments and existing software such as the game Fruit Ninja.
The black glass on the Leap’s upper side hides two small cameras and a handful of infrared LEDs, which track the motion of a person’s fingers to an accuracy of a hundredth of a millimeter, says the company’s cofounder and CEO, Michael Buckwald.
Buckwald says that Leap provides the solution to “gorilla arm,” a term used to describe the dubious ergonomics of a person repeatedly lifting his or her hands from the keyboard or mouse and reaching out to operate a computer’s touch screen. Users of Leap’s device can lift their hands just slightly off the keyboard and make more economic gestures with their fingers.
“If you’re controlling a cursor [with Leap], you don’t have to move one-to-one with the screen, like you do with touch,” says Buckwald, so a small finger motion can traverse a much larger distance on screen. This usually makes it significantly faster than using a mouse and keyboard, he says."