Thought control over our daily 3D modeling routine isn’t here yet, but we still have the old analog system of manipulating our models with the seductive sway of our hands, face or other objects. Actually, we’re not there yet either, but this week, the possibility of that and your mouse, keyboard and 3D mouse becoming obsolete just became much more real.

Leap Motion

Leap Motion is making new ground in gesture control with high precision 3D interaction on the desktop, and even though we’ve not seen specific applications for 3D software yet, the ability is there, all packed into a device smaller that your mouse or mobile.

The Leap is a desktop peripheral connected via USB that puts an 8 cubic foot space of 3D interaction in front of your computer monitor. It’s completely touch-free and glove-free with a precision that, according to Leap Motion, is 200x more sensitive than the Kinect or any other devices. It senses your hand, fingers and objects independent of each other and is the most fluid, high-resolution 3D recognition demonstrated – and the only currently available for desktop applications. What makes it perfectly positioned for 3D CAD applications is the inspiration it took it 3D modeling itself.

“The original inspiration behind Leap came from our frustration with 3D modeling— something that took 10 seconds in real life would take 30 minutes with a computer. Molding virtual clay with a computer should be as easy as molding clay in the real world. The mouse and keyboard were simply getting in the way. Could we figure out a way to control computers in a better, more natural way—and without settling for the limitations of available technology? After four years of hard work, we’ve got the answer. Now it’s time to have fun.”

Fun, INDEED. This isn’t just a vapor-ware demonstration either. The Leap is already available for pre-order at $70 and will begin shipping in the December to February timeframe. Developers can also be part of the action with an available SDK and developer unit. Really, we’ve been waiting far to long for something like this. The Kinect came out in 2010. Kinect for Windows hit retail February 2012 with a price of $250. The Leap is everything 3D interaction on the desktop should already be at this point in time – small, cheap, precise. We’re only seeing the beginning of the applications for the Leap as demonstrated in this video.

YouTube video

That’s all great, but how does it work in real testing? Gadget Lab tested the touch-free device and gave it a thorough review. Their take-away? It’s everything shown in the demo video, low latency, highly precise and lots of potential uses, but more likely to be used as a secondary input device for most people.

“The first thing we noticed is the system’s lack of latency. If you’ve ever drawn on a touchscreen tablet, you’ve noticed the lag between quick finger strokes and the tablet’s slower registration of those strokes. But the Leap’s lag is imperceptible. Finger movements, swipes and taps in mid-air instantly registered as onscreen movements.”

Betakit was also fortunate enough to have an interview with founder and CEO Michael Buckwald whose opinion of the technology shows where their focus firmly lies.

“Our technology is the only one focused on bringing motion control to the desktop, rather than trying to take what’s been built for TV (large gesture sensing) and making it work for computers.”



Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.