I encountered a couple of glitches when installing the Controller’s software. First, the installation file I was prompted to download from Leap Motion’s website lacked the EXE extension that Windows needs to know that it’s an installation program. It worked after I renamed the file properly, but many users would have gotten stymied.
I was also prompted for my birthdate after establishing the required online user-password combo, to which some people might object. Otherwise, the installation went smoothly. And I was entertained by Leap Motion’s introductory video followed by a colorful, musical interactive session to get me used to the kinds of hand motions I would have to create.
The app store
Leap Motion created an online store populated with dozens of developer-created apps—mostly games and creative activities—that use the capabilities of the Controller. For instance, several apps display colorful, moving graphic tapestries that respond to your hands’ movements, sort of like playing in a swirling pool of water or clouds of smoke. (Think ‘60s psychedelics!)
Other apps let you create music by moving your hands and plucking virtual harp strings on the screen, or “finger-paint” a drawing. Still others are interactive games of various genres, including some familiar touchscreen-oriented ones like Cut the Rope. As with typical app stores, some apps are free and some cost a few bucks.
There is a learning curve: Each app uses its developers’ vision of how to translate hand motions into onscreen actions. Some are less intuitive than others. For instance, you can control Google Earth with the Leap Motion Controller, but zooming into the revolving Earth requires a movement downward toward the desk, rather than forward toward the globe. Once you get to a recognizable location, control becomes more familiar.
The bottom line
No one knows whether the Leap Motion Controller foretells a future in which we'll use gesture controls like those in "Minority Report." We can say that the Leap won’t immediately replace your mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen, which allow more-precise, standardized control of existing applications. But it's fun to use. And eventually, gesture controls just might become another way we interact with computers day-to-day.