Leap Motion Review: Minority Report-Style Computing Arrives for $80


For the artists, there are apps like Deko Sketch for Mac and Corel Painter Freestyle for Windows, which allow you to sketch and paint using the air as your canvas. Most of the gesture navigation is restricted to the apps, though an app called Touchless lets you control the mouse cursor with your hand. The version for Windows can be useful, that is after you figure out how to properly use it to move around and transition between screens.

Leap Motion is incredibly immersive and an entirely new way of controlling content on the computer. I've spent considerable time this week being amused and delighted by twisting a frog gallbladder in the air -- words I'd never thought I'd type. But for all the amazement and fun, there are obvious signs that this is a brand new tool.

For the most part, navigation and control are precise, however in some app menus, movement can be shaky and imprecise. Other times the apps can be very slow and sluggish, even on a powerful MacBook Pro Retina powered by a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. Additionally, when I tested the Airspace app on the Microsoft Surface Pro, the software had problems adjusting to the screen resolution and everything appeared blown out. More than a few times I've had to hit the Alt + Ctrl + Del keys to exit a failed app or revert to my mouse to get to the close window button.

Additionally, many of the apps take a while to figure out how to navigate correctly and the experience isn't always consistent. For example, some require a single finger and get tripped up if you use two and others want you to poke to select while others want you to hold your finger over something.

Bottom Line
For that reason and many others, the Leap Motion isn't about to completely replace the trusty mouse we have relied on for the last 30 years. Holding your hands in the air to click on a link or move through your Inbox sounds like a terrible waste of time. But that's not the point of the little device.

"There are many things the mouse and keyboard are great for, but there are some things that they fail at catastrophically," the founder of Leap Motion Michael Buchwald told me last week. And he's right.

With a mouse or even a touchscreen you cannot learn about a frog's heart as if it were in your hand or mold a piece of virtual clay or soar through space with a wave or your hand. That's why, even despite its current imperfections and bugs, the $80 Leap Motion still seems like a computing leap worth taking.

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