WATCH | "There’s this incredible, latent, magic ability in our hands and fingers that lets anyone reach out and touch technology ... We’re focused on bringing this to virtual reality devices."
Leap Motion is a gesture control company that wants to get keyboards, touchscreens and controllers out of the way. After starting with desktop computer interfaces that lets you see and use your real hands in programs, Leap is now working with virtual reality hardware companies to get its "bare hand" control technology built right into headsets this year.
We sat down for a chat with the company's CEO, Michael Buckwald, to find out why hands and fingers are all of Leap Motion's now, but may be only part of its future.
Buckwald on why being able to "reach out and touch technology" is important:
"Over the last 20 years, computers have gotten unfathomably powerful but input hasn't really changed . At the same time, there’s this incredible, latent, magic ability in our hands and fingers that lets anyone reach out and touch technology. For us, the goal has always been to bring these things together. We’re focused on bringing this to VR and AR devices this year so that people can touch things in a virtual world just as they would in the real world."
How Leap Motion is bringing its hand sensors to VR:"So we started by making it so that our small ...USB stick-sized, $80 device that was originally built for PCs -- we released a mount so that any developer could take it and connect it to any VR headset ... And at the same time, we’ve been working with the people that are building the VR headsets and AR headsets to take out technology and actually embed it inside so that, at the end of the day, consumers and developers don’t have to have an accessory."
Buckwald on the different uses for hands in VR (besides games):"Some of the most interesting use cases are around, for example, education and taking people’s core intuition for, like, how a basketball will fly through the air -- if you throw a basketball -- and be able to bring that to quantum particles, or in healthcare, people who are going through physical rehabilitation being able to see their finger strength improve immediately, or controlling a robot on the other side of the world that is being used by an airplane mechanic to fix 50 airplanes instead of one."
Our goal is to bring people closer to computers ... We think of ourselves as a company trying to solve this problem, whatever the solution is.
When brain-computer interface (mind control) tech comes along, will Leap Motion's gesture control tech become obsolete?
"In the same way that voice and hands are not actually competitive -- both are good at different things. Voice is better at typing, but you wouldn’t say words to mold a piece of clay or grab a ball just so. With brain interfaces, at least in their early form -- first 10 years -- it'll probably be like that. At the same time, we are going to be working on those sorts of things ourselves and not just brain interfaces but whatever is in the future."