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Many many moons ago, I saw a KickStarter for something that interested me – a motion controller, so I signed up, paid, and promptly forgot about it.

Last week, I got a notice about shipping, and then a few days later Fedex China asked for a sample of my blood, a copy of my grandmother, and 16 forms filled in triplicate so that they could release the shipment.

Luckily we had all that at hand, and after a quick fax or three later we had a unit delivered to our offices. As pictures are better than words, take a look below:

leap insides

leap box

As I’m not really much for reading instructions, I plugged mine in, and saw that it pops up as a standard USB device (well duh, its usb!).

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 2.24.03 PM

It does need drivers to make it work, so off to http://leapmotion.com/setup I went, to grab drivers.

Downloaded, and installed –
Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 2.40.23 PM

They’ve definitely spent some quality time making sure that things look good.
Well, maybe not; it crashed almost immediately!

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 2.41.39 PM

It did popup a message via notifications before it crashed though.

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 2.43.04 PM

Reopened their app, and it wants me to sign up. Their app is quite buggy – ran the updater, and it also froze, leaving the updater in the middle of the screen. (Software Version: 1.0.2+7287).
I’m *really* not a big fan of that, so off to find some app’s that I don’t have to download from an app store.

BetterTouchTool http://blog.boastr.net/ has preliminary support for touch ui, so I thought I’d download that first.

Installed BTT, and added some gestures using the Leap Motion settings.

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 3.27.39 PM

Not much seemed to be happening – my initial settings didn’t seem to make anything happen when i waved my hands over the device, so went back to the Leap settings.

Leap has a visualizer tool which doesn’t work on my Mac – immediately crashes. Probably as I have 3 screens, and they didn’t test very well.

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 3.29.40 PM

So far, not really a good experience. Consistent repeatable crashing in the Leap software.
They do have another tool in the settings – Diagnostic Visualizer, which actually does work.

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 3.31.59 PM

Here it is showing detection of 5 fingers.
I still didn’t have any luck with BTT and Leap, so closed, and reopened both software packages, then stuff started working. Again, this reeks of bugginess…

The BTT app specifically states his is alpha support for Leap, and I’m pretty sure that the initial not working part was not his app…

Now that I finally had it working, how is it?

Well, the placement of the sensor is important. It seems like it doesn’t actually read above the sensor, and the i/r led’s are placed at a 45 degree angle facing you, as when I placed the sensor in front of my keyboard and motion above the keyboard I get better results.

Its extremely flaky though – I can’t reliably get it to detect finger movements. You have to try and retry and retry the same action before it works. Its not quite the swipe your fingers over it and it works that I was hoping for. There is also latency in the motion detection.
Initial detection of fingers in app is about 300-500ms before it see’s them. So a swipe over the sensor doesn’t work unless you sit fingers above it then swipe or perform your action.
This really doesn’t help it.

As placement of the sensor is extremely important, I tried a number of different arrangements, but all were pretty similar in reliability. I honestly get about 20-30% of gestures recognized at best. Even with the Diagnostic visualizer running so I could see what the device thought it was seeing, it was hard to reliable perform actions, even when I sat in its sweet spot. My Kinect is a *lot* better at this than the Leap is.

As it stands, this is little more than a tech demo, and a bad one at that.
If I could persuade one of my staff to video my attempts to use it so you could see, you’d understand!

So, this has a long way to go before its something usable, but I do have hope.
I’m sure that the software will improve, but for now this is definitely a concept piece rather than something usable.

I’m not unhappy that I paid money for it though. The interest in this technology has put a lot of investment capital at the device, and it will improve.

That said, don’t buy…yet.

My rating: 2/10

Addendum – my device gets rather hot in use. Not warm. Hot. Noticeably so. Even in the bare 10-15 minutes I’ve had it running.

Not sure how long it will last in Shanghai summers..

Addendum #2 – seems to have cooled down a bit from the rather hot to the touch that it was running at, although now its stopped working completely.

Dmesg shows –

USBF: 1642989.607 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 6, EP: 2)
USBF: 1642997.609 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 9, EP: 2)
USBF: 1649135.492 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 10, EP: 0)
USBF: 1649141.495 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 10, EP: 0)
USBF: 1649147.499 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 10, EP: 0)
USBF: 1649153.503 AppleUSBEHCI[0xffffff803bb6a000]::Found a transaction which hasn't moved in 5 seconds on bus 0xfd, timing out! (Addr: 10, EP: 0)

Unplugged it, and replugged it in, working again, but it looks like both the drivers and the ui side need work. This isn’t production ready by any way shape or means.