Next generation gesture recognition will transform how we interface with computers


It seems as if the next generation of how we interface with computers may be here.

I have long spoken about how we will transcend antediluvian computer interfaces such as the mouse, from predictions about the future of the home to commenting on real-life ‘Minority Report’ interfaces and the merging of physical and digital worlds.

If the announcements and videos from startup Leap Motion accurately indicate the power of the technology, it will greatly accelerate the shift to new and better interfaces.

Many science-fiction movies for the last years have featured gesture-driven interfaces. However until now the ability to pick up finely-grained multi-point gestures has been very limited or very expensive.

The Leap Motion interface is promised to retail for $69.99, first shipping “this winter”, presumably in time for Christmas. The company is providing developer kits so anyone can create applications on top of the device, already suggesting a number of applications:

We envision a day in the near future when our motion control technology will be used in most consumer products – not just computers, but cars, appliances, medical devices, light switches and more. There are already many great uses for a variety of people.

* Artists and creative types can use The Leap to emulate a stylus or easily create 3D images.
* Anyone can use The Leap to interact with Windows 7/8 or Mac OS X by clicking, grabbing, scrolling and using familiar gestures like pinch to zoom in 3D space.
* Users pointing a pen at the signature line of a document to sign it in space.
* Engineers can interact more easily with 3D modeling software.
* Gamers can play more easily and many will modify with Leap in mind.
* Surgeons can control 3D medical data with their hands without taking off their gloves.

I very much look forward to playing with the device. We have yet to see what consumer uptake will be, and whether Leap Motion will dominate the market, but the very real advances in their product suggest that computer interfaces becoming largely driven by gesture may be a lot sooner than many have expected.