Remember when we first heard about Leap Motion back in 2012? The San Francisco-based company sought after the virtual realm by offering its unique gesture-based technology, called The Leap. The sensor device, which supported touch-less hand and finger motions as input, plugged into a computer and voila- no more need for a mouse and keyboard, you’ve got your hands and fingers. Unfortunately, it ended up selling just 500,000 units in two years. Basically, computer users found no use for The Leap. After such a slow tread into the market, Leap Motion has been making incremental changes to its technology, now ready to release something new. Next up is the Orion, a hand-tracking gesture control device made to be used in augmented and virtual environments.
The problem with The Leap is it needed to be something consumers want to interact with. It needed a deeper purpose than just replacing the mouse. Now, your hands and fingers can take the ultimate drive with Orion, a small sensor built directly into a VR headset. According to The Verge, where Leap Motion wasn’t prepared for the virtual landscape before, which depended on the stretching of hands and fingers to reach an object, now it is. It can detect your fingers, joints, the way your hands are facing, the position of your palms, and even which way you are pointing your fingers in a 3D space. Tracking is faster and more accurate than previous Leap models, upgrading overall performance and user experience. These are advances that “should all help the company establish or extend its market traction” (Tech News World).
Dean Takahashi from Venture Beat was lucky enough to try out Orion for himself. After previewing the technology, he said he had now hoped to use his hands, arms, legs, and whole body inside the virtual realm, but that it gave him “a taste of the things to come”. Soon, we could be able to manipulate things in VR almost identically to the way we do in reality. Hand tracking is absolutely necessary for that to happen, as the ability to see your hands is an essential part of creating a sense of presence as well as immersion.
Although the new technology from Leap Motion is far from consumer use, it’s interesting to imagine it being used for more than games and testing the waters in VR. It could be put to great use in learning environments, especially since humans tend to learn faster and better when they are using more parts of their body. Interacting with their environment via gesture control could create an innovative new standard in the classroom. As far as release, Leap Motion anticipates “several” VR companies to release headsets using Orion, starting late this year. However, there is already a beta version of Orion for developers. (The Verge).
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