With a post written on its blog, Leap Motion has made a huge announcement: Leap Motion will go mobile.
This should not sound as something completely new: Leap Motion already had some kind of Android SDK and some kind of mount that you could use with Cardboard.
The problem of this solutions was that they were far from being complete: you had somehow to connect a PC-dedicated device to the USB port of your smartphone and somehow mount it on your headset. In some cases, like with my Gear VR innovator edition (with no external USB ports), you were unable to use Leap Motion at all.
But today things are changed a lot. Leap Motion has announced a new hardware version of Leap Motion, developed with mobile headsets in mind: less power consumption, more field of view and more precision. So, this new Leap Motion version will not be a PC-device anymore, it will be a mobile device, specifically thought to work with your GearVR headset. So, it will drain less your battery. Furthermore, they have made a new very user friendly form factor: no more duct tape or strange cardboard mounts: just plug it onto your GearVR and that’s it: your hands in virtual reality out of the box!
Leap Motion has completely changed the hardware: it was since too long that they made the best possible with a device that was many years old (latest Orion software update has been impressive, finally the hand tracking in VR has become awesome!). This time they created a new hardware, and this way they have managed to reduce battery consumption and make the tracking more precise. Furthermore they incredibly increased the field of view of the device: one of the biggest issues of Leap Motion was that moving your hands on your left or on your right would result in a completely hand tracking loss. Now, the sensor will have a FOV of 180°x180° (yikes!) Meaning that you can move your hands the way you want and this is a great shift for manual interaction.
UPDATE: Leap Motion has told me that even the maximum hand distance has been increased a lot and that “it is significantly beyond arm length”. Wow!
Furthermore, being able to use it with GearVR means that you can finally have natural hands interactions without annoying cables around you: this is another step towards freedom of the user… and if you remember well, this is exactly what all headset vendors, like Oculus and Vive are trying to accomplish.
UPDATE: if you’re thinking about other platforms, like Daydream, Leap Motion told me that this will happen, but not now. These have been the exact words:
We want to make magical experiences possible and that happens when our tech basically becomes an invisible part of the overall design — a more human natural experience. So our goal with this release is to show what a fully integrated product can look like. We’ll have more to say about specific SDK support, integrations, etc. when we get closer to a full release.
I love Leap Motion a lot and I think that this update has been a fantastic news. Leap Motion is great because it offers super-natural interactions with your both hands, with all fingers (that’s why we want to implement it inside our ImmotionRoom system). And they also provide developers an interactions engine, to let you build easily programs where the user can grasp and throw objects in a very easy way. Besides that, the team is awesome and when I contacted them for one of my events, they have been super-kind. The only thing that this device still truly lacks is haptic feedback, but I hope that mixing it with products like the one provided by Ultrahaptics can be a complete game-changer for virtual reality.
And all this cool stuff started years ago, with a sensor that tracked hands very badly and that had no clear idea on what it was useful to. Now it works very good and we know it is a great device for interactions in VR. What a beautiful story!
(Header image by Leap Motion)