Leap Motion, the company behind the eponymous gesture-sensing human-machine interaction (HMI) system
, has released a video demonstrating how the technology works in conjunction with Microsoft's undeniably touch-centric Windows 8 operating system.
The latest in Microsoft's long-running Windows software series, Windows 8 came in for a great deal of flak at launch when it introduced the Modern UI. Previously known as Metro, Modern UI is a tile-based user interface developed from that originally created for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. While tweaked for larger screens, Modern UI retains its focus on touch-screen interaction - a focus shared by Microsoft, which is currently working hard to bring touch-screen technology from tablets into mainstream computing.
The problem, Modern UI's detractors claim, is that most laptops and almost all desktops do not currently have a touch-screen. An interface that works great on a tablet does not, therefore, translate to the desktop terribly well - a fact Microsoft has tacitly acknowledged
with a promise to revisit the keyboard-and-mouse experience when it launches the Windows 8.1 update later this year.
With most users not willing to trade in their monitors for touch-screen versions, Leap Motion had a bright idea: the development of a gesture-based control system that can sit unobtrusively in front of the screen and pick up the user's fingertips with a claimed accuracy of 0.01mm at a claimed 290 frames per second. The device works with any monitor - technically, it works fine without a monitor, too, but you won't be able to see what you're doing - and, because it's contact-free, doesn't need you to stop and clean mucky fingerprints off the screen every half-hour.
The company's concept proved popular: it raised nearly $43 million in funding and has the support of hardware and software partners from Asus to ZeptoLabs - the latter being the company behind popular swipe-based tablet and smartphone game Cut the Rope.
Gaming isn't the only feature of Leap Motion, however. As well as promised plug-ins for Autodesk software that claim to make 3D modelling significantly more straightforward, the company has worked hard on interfacing the system with the underlying operating system - a task made easier by Modern UI's focus on gesture- and touch-based interaction.
A video released by the company reveals how far the technology has come from the early prototypes it has previously displayed. 'From the second you plug in your Leap Motion Controller, you’ll be able to browse the web and interact with your computer just by moving your hands and fingers in the air,
' a company spokesperson crowed at the release of the video. 'With Leap Motion technology and Windows, you can do everything that’s possible with multi-touch inputs — without actually touching anything. This also means that existing applications in Windows 7 and 8 will respond to your natural hand and finger movements.
The company has promised to release a second video demonstrating the controller's interaction with Apple's OS X platform, but these teasers are likely to leave fans concerned about repeated delays. Originally scheduled to launch last year but delayed for last-minute tweaks, Leap Motion claimed in February that it had a May release in mind. Now, however, the company is claiming that pre-orders - some of which it had received nearly a year ago - will not be shipping until the 22nd of July.
The company's demonstration video is reproduced below, while more information is available on the official website