Use gestures to control your PC and shift between screens with a sweep of your hand. Precognitive mutants not included
Three dimensional movement is important to most of the apps designed for the Leap Motion: the ability to press is critical to everything from sculpting app Freeform to Touchless, the Windows gesture control interface. There’s something a little disconcerting about pressing a button that isn’t really there, although on-screen indicators help you orient yourself in space; we never quite got used to pressing something which provided no tactile feedback. Other apps required us to hold a finger in place over a button to click it or to quickly circle it. You don’t even have to use your finger: a pen or baton works well with apps that use one-fingered control.
Some of the most impressive Leap Motion apps give you a world of sound and vision to interact with
As well as pressing and sweeping gestures, the Leap Motion can identify circling motions, multi-finger gestures and pulling your hand backwards within the detection field. Some apps worked better than others. The simple slicing action of Cut the Rope was easy to perform fairly accurately and Touchless proved to be surprisingly effective when navigating the large buttons of the Windows 8.1 Start screen, although more complex desktop control apps felt overcomplicated.
There are lots of odd music and navel-gazing art apps in the AirSpace store, and it’s among these that you’ll find some of the most interesting and engaging applications of the controller. We were entranced by Lotus, which describes itself as a “mind altering audioreactive experience”, looks like the video screen at a psy-trance festival and plays like a suped-up Theremin. Another app that really makes the most of the Leap Motion is Volantes, an underwater massively multiplayer tower capturing game that has an innovative steering system in which you tilt your hands to move and manoeuvre. You even get to fire laser pulses by pushing your hands forward, which makes you feel exactly like a superhero.
Drift, swoop and dive through water in Volantes
Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of wallpaper apps that look pretty but don’t do much. You can trail your fingers through pools of virtual water and herd shoals of fish about the place, but that won’t keep you engaged for long. More interesting uses of the controller include as a MIDI interface and drawing tool, although our results with the latter tended to be rather abstract.
It’d be a mistake to think of the Leap Motion as a human interface device on the same level as your mouse, keyboard or touchscreen. Nor does it have the sweeping scope of Microsoft’s room-encompassing Kinect. However, it’s a creative and innovative way to interact with your computer and its software in a completely new way. It’s little more than a slightly expensive toy, but if you’re into new technologies and particularly if you’re interested in developing your own gesture controlled apps, then Leap Motion’s clever, well-supported hardware and development environment have plenty to offer.