Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor has revolutionary potential, but it’s pricey at $250 for the Windows version. Enter Leap, which plans to sell a more accurate motion-sensing device called the Leap Motion for just $70.
According to the company, the Leap Motion can track movement to 1/100th of a millimeter, which is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market. At close range, it’s sensitive enough to detect the movement of fingertips and other small objects, such as styli.
The Leap hardware is a rectangular box that’s roughly the width of a laptop trackpad. It connects to the PC through a USB cable, and detects motion within four cubic feet.
Although Leap doesn’t say what type of technology it uses, I assume it relies on sonar or something similar, because there’s no camera on the device. If that’s true, Kinect still has advantages in face detection and 3D modeling, and the Windows version has a longer range of up to 3 meters. Leap seems focused solely on short-range motion control.
But that focus–along with a low price tag–could help Leap stand out as it tries to attract app developers. Like Microsoft, Leap will offer a software development kit. The company will also host an app store where users can download Leap-enabled apps. Motion control is still a young technology, and there’s definitely room for more than one approach.
Leap is taking pre-orders for the Leap Motion now, and says it won’t charge buyers’ cards until the product ships this winter.