First impressions of Leap Motion

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Summary: My initial impression was very confusing, frustrating, but after some hiccups I'm pretty damn excited. Read on for more details.

Earlier today I was happy to get my Leap Motion unit. I ordered my unit on July 22nd and was supposed to get an email when it shipped but I never did. Maybe it ended up in my spam folder by mistake, either way, I'm just happy it showed up.

I ripped the box open (ok, I carefully opened the box) and plugged it in. I went over to to grab the installer bits and here's where I made my first mistake. For some reason Chrome decided to lock up at the moment I plugged in the Leap. I can't imagine why - but it beachballed on me at the exact same time. I switched to Firefox and downloaded the bits there. (To be clear, that wasn't a mistake - and as an aside - I love how Firefox has a download indicator right in the icon in the dock. Looked pretty slick.) I returned to Chrome to wait for the download to wrap. Once the download was done, I ran the installer. At the end of the installer, all of a sudden my desktop went black as an app took over.

Now - I know I'm probably in the minority here - but I freaking despise apps that take focus and especially ones that go full screen. Maybe I was supposed to stop everything while the installer was working, but I'm one of those silly people who actually like to use a computer that can do more than one thing at once.

So - I've got the Leap Motion doing something and playing vaguely New Age music while my SiriusXM is blearing classical at the same time. I can't app switch (again, why should one app decide it is more important is beyond me) nor do I have any idea how to actually end this application if I needed to. Anyway, this is the first thing I see after the giant logo:

Woot! So I have two choices. I can begin, or I can continue. Um. Ummmm. Begin?

So yeah... at this point I just start spastically waving my hands. There's no directions here - all you see is what you see above. The "gold" is my hands. I guess it was obvious I should immediately start just moving my hands around, but it was not obvious to me.

Eventually I figure out that this orientation is supposed to show three different aspects - the view port, the viewing area, and the level of detail. The third one I didn't actually get to the first few times I ran the program because - well - I didn't even even realize it existed. Maybe if the app had some type of additional direction/help/anything it would have been clear. Once I did get to the third part though it was freaking cool.

By the way - that was the exact moment I felt like Iron Man. (Again though - this was later in the day - not initially.)

So I go to the Airspace app. This is basically a local listing of Leap Motion-compatible applications. First application I try is Lotus. After a minute I figured out I was supposed to poke the eye to start. Then... I get a hand doohicky and I don't know what to do. No direction. No suggestions. No hints. Zip. I give up. A few hours later I kinda figure out I can run 4 different sub-demos - and one is kinda cool - but again I have no idea how to do anything. So maybe the fun is in figuring that out. I can dig that. But for the first app I tried it was frustrating.

Then I tried Dropchord. It looked cool. Nope, didn't work. I got this:

Um... ok. So I hit next.

Hmm. Well, when I first connected to Leap Motion I had to create an account. So obviously that is it. Let me try that.

Erp. Um, well, let me check out Leap Motion support. To be fair, this isn't a Leap Motion app (actually, I have no way of knowing that, but they shipped it, so...). I see a form and try searching for dropchord.

Ok, so here's the form...

I type in dropchord and get...

Um... that. Ok. So I click around a bit more and discover an ergonomic section. I see this picture:

Notice the Leap is in front of the keyboard. I then realize - nowhere was I shown where to actually put it. I double check the box - nothing. No suggestions at all.

Now to be fair - this is where I had screwed up a bit. If you remember, I had switched to Firefox to do the download. As soon as I began the download I stopped paying attention. Turns out there was a video on the page after you started the download. A helpful video. -sigh- You can see it for yourself here: Maybe they should have that under support as well?

I then went back to the apps and tried Cut the Rope. Same. Damn. Thing.

At this point I took a deep breath (ranted a bit on Facebook, but don't tell anyone) and had lunch. When I came back I decided to try the apps again, this time though I was off of my corporate VPN. Guess what? It worked.

All in all... very frustrating start. But I've tried a few more apps. I'm not quite sure I'll actually buy anything yet, but some of what I've tried is kinda cool.

All in all - so far - I think this thing has potential. I think what I'm going to find - and probably most people - is that there are probably limited uses for this for now. But the potential is incredible. I think - given time - this could become one of coolest accessories for your laptop.

Of course - there's a JavaScript API. Here's an example of it by Mozilla Evangelist Christian Heilmann: Playing with Leap Motion for Accessibility. You can also find GitHub projects related to Leap already:

For my first hack I think I'm going to hook up some motion handling for Reveal presentations. I can't wait to write it!

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Lola LB posted on 8/1/2013 at 12:56 AM

Leap Motion allows you to dispense with the keyboard when its not needed?

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/1/2013 at 12:57 AM

No. In theory you could use a virtual keyboard I suppose? I don't think the control would be that good though. It would certainly slow you down. Maybe v2.

Comment 3 by Simon MacDonald posted on 8/1/2013 at 5:45 AM

Actually using the Leap Motion to control Reveal sounds like a great idea.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/1/2013 at 7:47 AM

Over on Facebook Christian Heilmann mentioned someone has done it for deck.js. I tried it - and while it was a bit awkward, it was pretty cool.

Comment 5 by Pete posted on 8/1/2013 at 11:03 AM

What happens if you put random stuff over it and wave it around?

Like an open pair of scissors, does that work like 2 fingers? Or a baseball, will it pick that up as a closed fist?

Or is it clever enough to tell what's a hand and what's not?

Comment 6 by Salvatore fusto posted on 8/1/2013 at 12:04 PM

there are many videos on youtube, including an interaction with Google Earth.

Comment 7 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/1/2013 at 11:40 PM

Pete: It kinda got confused. It definitely seems to assume a 'hand' is there and the visualizer app saw the pen I was holding as a finger, but one that was somewhat disjointed.

Comment 8 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/8/2013 at 9:25 PM

Looks like I'm too late (to do a Reveal.js plugin):

I'm going to write it anyway though just as a reason to learn the LP api.