Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Leap Motion Review - Practical Impressions - #firstleap

I had ordered the little thing back in Fall of last year . . . did not have to pay for it at the time, so I thought, what the heck! Fast forward 8 months and it arrived by USPS today. I ordered it thinking that since I am a proponent of voice control and dictation, this new way of interacting with the PC would be enlightening.

The software took a very long time to download, possible because of the Leap Motion servers being very busy this week for launch. The apps from Airspace take a while to download, too, so I had to be patient. Four basic utilities are installed: the device driver, the visualizer which helps you learn basic hand movements, the Control Panel, and Airspace, which is the app store and special launcher for your Leap Motion enabled apps.

After waiting again for a download (I had to switch to a different laptop because while the driver did load on the first one, the Leap Motion did not respond) I was able to run the orientation. This worked OK and gave me insight into how this was really going to work. It sees your fingers and hands, but you have to know how they will be recognized. Many times I was not skilled at operating the apps because the controller would only "see" three out of five fingers or my thumb got in the way.

Hands in the air!
While I think this is a ground-breaking device, using the Leap is harder than I imagined. Sort of like starting out using voice recognition. Practice is required. I loaded a few of the free apps to try it out. Touchless has the most potential and after 20 minutes I could navigate where I wanted, but it was certainly a lot more difficult than using a mouse. But then, 20 years ago, formatting a document in WordPerfect for DOS with Reveal Codes was faster than mousing around in MS Word! Playing a few of the games, like the simple "Cut the Rope" is fun and it seems like it is built for this type of handwaving in air interaction.

The 7 apps I have installed. Lotus crashed three times on load so I did not use that one yet.
The hardest part to get used to is that you have no touch feedback doing gestures in the air. With a mouse or a pen or even a touch screen you have contact with some tool or device and can learn quickly how to compensate your movements. With the Leap and the airspace you are called to gesture in, it is difficult to calibrate your brain for where your fingers will be the most effective. This input device is indeed a brand new paradigm.

Learning it reminds me of my work teaching people in the late 1980s and early 1990s how to use a mouse. Believe it our not, many very smart people in my classes took days to get used to that input device. I think the Leap Motion is going to be the same.

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