Last December, I stumbled on a YouTube video (above) about the Leap Motion Controller. It looked fantastic, and its $70 price tag (at the time, $80 now) made it an obvious purchase for the early adopter. How could I not pre-order it? After a few delayed release dates, I finally received it in late July. Unfortunately, at no point does the video ever accurately show what the actual experience is like. I knew that it wouldn’t be the same, but damn. Let’s just say there were a few “mistaken impressions” from the video, five of which are below.
The Leap promo video had no commentary or narration, so I had to discern what it was, what it did, and how it did it, solely through visual stimuli. Let the Assumption Games begin.
1. Leap appears to function wirelessly.
The video clearly shows the Leap Motion Controller functioning wirelessly. I made the assumption that it connects via bluetooth or RF (radio frequency, like a wireless mouse) and is powered by battery that you charge with a universal standard, such as micro-USB. Wireless operation was a large part of its appeal, at least to me.
Reality: Wired by micro-USB 3.0. A let-down, but not a deal breaker.
2. Navigate Google Earth using intuitive hand and finger motions.
Reality: There is n.o.t.h.i.n.g intuitive or even possible about using Google Earth with the Leap. No language on this earth could adequately describe how confusing and ridiculous it is, so here’s a video where I try to zoom into NYC. Notice the extremely unhelpful arrows and how I ended up underwater.
3. The Leap Motion registers your hands and fingers at around 0.01mm accuracy — 100 times more accurate than the Kinect.
Reality: I’m sure it is extremely precise, but it definitely doesn’t function that way. It’s actually a little bit of a joke. Some reviewers use “spastic” to describe the Leap experience, and that’s how I would describe it, too. It’s twitchy and inaccurate to the point of frustration. The video below is how the Leap “sees” my hands. It looks pretty cool, and it is…for a while. Notice some of my fingers disappearing and reappearing constantly and my hands twitching all over the place. I also try reproducing E.T’s glowing finger.
4. Play first-person shooters by aiming and shooting with your hand.
Reality: I haven’t tried to configure Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty with the Leap yet, but if it’s anything like this guy playing Borderlands 2 below, I’m not very excited by the prospect anymore. Plus, your arm would get pretty tired after about 15 minutes of holding it up to look, aim and shoot.
5. Play Angry Birds with chopsticks.
Reality: A search on Leap’s own app store, called Airspace, revealed that Angry Birds doesn’t even exist there. You can play Angry Birds in Chrome, and you can apparently play it with the Leap, but I haven’t figured out how, even with a quick Google search. I wasn’t willing to spend more than one Google search to figure it out, though. The fail is strong with this one. Very strong.
Part of Leap’s problem is that too many apps are paid, which deters a lot of people from downloading them and exploring what the Leap can do. Judging by the Leap’s poor and twitchy performance with the apps it came with, there is no way I want to spend even $2-5 on apps that will probably respond in the same, frustrating, and jittery way.
At the end of the video, you find Leap’s logo and slogan “The Future Is In Reach.” Indeed, it is in reach…if you have a 10 year-long pole to reach it with. It’s a bit like a 3D printer; revolutionary, a proof of concept, the next big thing, almost entirely useless, and only a handful of people might actually make the most of it (for now).