While the venerable computer mouse pre-dates many of its users, the simplistic two-dimensional pointing device still remains the de facto method for translating input from users to computers. In the decades following the mouse, joysticks, foot pedals, trackpads, gyroscopic input devices, trackballs, styluses and other unique peripherals have positioned themselves as possible alternatives.
Admittedly though, many of those devices have been relegated to the realms of special applications and extreme ergometry. In truth, only touchscreens and trackpads have proven themselves as alternatives with mass appeal, but even those popular devices aren’t properly suited to replace the inexpensive mouse tethered to desktops everywhere.
The Leap Motion controller is another such attempt and an interesting one at that. The company touts the device as a new paradigm in human input devices, allowing users to wave, swipe and poke their way through a digital world otherwise meant for keyboards, mice and touchscreens. So, what exactly is the Leap Motion controller and how does it work?
The miniscule gadget barely measures larger than a USB flash drive, however inside the Leap you'll find two cameras and three infrared LEDs. Using these components, the device is capable of tracking hand and finger movements in all three spatial dimensions. We’ve seen similar technology applied elsewhere (e.g. Microsoft Kinect), so the Leap Motion may seem a little less fascinating than it would otherwise. Nevertheless, making use of motion-sensing technology to interact with your computer is at least refreshing, if not magical.
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